Buoyant Granada set to launch sale of motorway sites

Granada, the media and leisure conglomerate, will next week launch the sale of its Welcome Break motorway service sites by issuing a sales memorandum to between 40 and 50 potential buyers.

The chain of 21 service sites could fetch about pounds 300m, and is believed to have attracted expressions of interest from petrol and food retailers, as well as brewing giant Whitbread.

The news emerged as Granada announced sharply higher pre-tax earnings for the 1995-96 fiscal year, including for the first time results from Forte, the hotels group won by Granada following a bitter pounds 3.9bn takeover battle early this year.

Profits soared 37 per cent to pounds 480m in the year ending 30 September, which included eight months of Forte earnings. Gerry Robinson, Granada's chairman, added that a mid-battle promise to enhance Forte's profitability by pounds 100m was "well on track", with pounds 40m in enhancements already made. The dividend has been set at 13p for the year, up 11 per cent.

Charles Allen, the group's chief executive, said: "These are excellent results, and they prove that we have done what we said we would do following the Forte takeover." The key moves have been to reduce overheads, restructure the hotels operations from 11 to three main units, and consolidate the catering businesses, including roadside restaurants, by introducing new menus and higher prices.

The company has also embarked on a large-scale disposals programme, aimed at reducing net debt, which stood at pounds 3.5bn at the end of the year, giving gearing of 322 per cent. Earmarked for sale, in addition to Welcome Break, are the Exclusive hotels and a stake in the Savoy Group. The first of the Exclusives, the Hyde Park, was sold for pounds 86m this week to a unit of Jardine Matheson.

Continuing operations, including the company's extensive media side, were sharply ahead year on year. Granada Media Group, which includes the two ITV licences, Granada and London Weekend Television, reported operating profits of pounds 163m, up 17 per cent. The restaurant and catering business, not counting the roadside sites of Little Chef and Happy Eater inherited from Forte, was ahead 25 per cent on a pro-forma basis. The rental operations were only 3 per cent up year on year, however, reflecting the mature nature of the business.

Despite the figures, shares in Granada dropped 10p to 882.5p yesterday, but analysts said the decline was linked to persistent rumours on the Continent about a possible takeover bid by Granada for troubled hotelier Accor. "We have not approached Accor, and have no intention to do so," Mr Allen said yesterday.

Mr Allen also said for the first time publicly that Granada had no intention of bidding for Manchester United, the Premier League football club, despite persistent rumours that Granada was among the potential predators.

"We would have no interest in such a one-off purchase. It just doesn't make any sense," Mr Allen said.

Mr Robinson conceded that the market might begin to question the "conglomerate" status of Granada, in light of recent high-profile demergers.

"Yes, you could do it. We currently have two large businesses, operating in their own right. But we have no plans to do so in the short or medium term."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Passing on: George Washington died alert, aware and in his own bed. This is the kind of of death most people would like to have
health
Life and Style
fashion

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tv
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Brendan Rodgers as a manager, writes Paul Scholes
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Execution Trader

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global Rolling Spot FX, Comm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game