Granada seeks hotel alliances overseas

GRANADA, the leisure conglomerate, is in talks with hotel operators in the US and the Far East about forming a series of alliance which would allow it to reach a new range of customers.

Granada yesterday said the group had been talking to different hotel groups for about six months. "The key issue in the hotel business is global alliances," said Gerry Robinson, chairman. "The ideal partner is one who is strong where you're not."

An alliance would allow Granada to promote its hotels, which include the Meridien and Posthouse names, to customers of in other continents. Mr Robinson compared the discussions to alliances in the airline industry where operators have formed agreements to share flights.

Charles Allen, chief executive said he could foresee Granada agreeing a two-way or even four-way deal with other operators. "The condition is whether parties are capable of working together," he said, adding that the groups would have to agree to share loyalty schemes and other offers. He said he expected a deal to be signed within the next year.

Meanwhile, Mr Robinson said Granada was likely to sell its 11 per cent stake in British Sky Broadcasting over the next four or five years.

Mr Robinson recently resigned as chairman of the satellite television group after it clashed with British Digital Broadcasting, the rival broadcaster of which Granada owns 50 per cent.

"It was not easy to sit in both camps,"Mr Robinson said. He was speaking as Granada reported profits before tax and exceptional items of pounds 274m for the half year to 28 March, a rise of 13 per cent. In the ongoing businesses, turnover increased by 12 per cent to pounds 1.93bn, while earnings per share improved to 22.7p from 21.1p.

Investment Column, page 23

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