Bass will buy more hotels

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BASS, the leisure giant, is looking to make further hotel acquisitions in the wake of its pounds 1.8bn purchase of the upmarket Inter-Continental chain last March. It has ambitions to create a global hotel chain by expanding its presence in Continental Europe and Asia.

Sir Ian Prosser, the group's chairman, said: "If you are asking me whether we want to buy something else, then the answer is yes. We will look hard at opportunities to expand." However, Sir Ian appeared to rule out buying another large chain of hotels, saying it was far more likely it would look at individual sites.

Bass is also planning a huge pounds 800m capital expenditure programme during its next financial year, which comes on top of the pounds 700m it will spend this year. Most of the money will be ploughed into its hotel chain and its managed pub estate where it is looking to rapidly roll out brands such as All Bar One and the It's A Scream student pubs.

Sir Ian warned that the leisure industry is likely to face a difficult time this year with consumer spending slowing in the UK. "The problems in Asia and the manufacturing industry [caused by the strong pound] make it inevitable that consumer demand will slow down in the UK and probably the US. But Germany and France look as though they are speeding up."

Bass is planning to take advantage of economic recovery on the Continent by opening an overseas chain of pubs next year.

Sir Ian said that Bass, the UK's second largest brewer, would be forced to continue with the number of beer brands it sells in the face of the decline in demand for traditional pints of ale. Its strongest performing brand was Carling.

After the period of massive upheaval which has seen the group make pounds 1.2bn worth of disposals, Bass reported flat pre-tax profits of pounds 307m for the six months to April.