Ladbroke hotel link looks a good bet

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The Independent Online
Ladbroke Group, the hotels-to-betting concern, is likely to please when it announces its interim figures on Thursday, for the six months to 30 June.

Despite some negative effects from the stronger pound on its hotels business, sterling's recent declines have eased the pressure. Nor has sterling's strength dragged down the performance of the London hotels. Investors who want more information on the progress of Ladbroke's biggest alliance of recent years - its tie-in with Hilton Hotels worldwide - should find plenty to chew over.

Since the venture was confirmed in January, the two sides have been working towards assimilating the two chains. The deal brings the two brands back together again for the first time in 32 years. Until then, Hilton Hotels Corporation had owned the rights to the Hilton name inside the US, while Ladbroke, through its Hilton International subsidiary, operates the brand outside the US.

Ladbroke and Hilton are close to announcing the amalgamation of the 57 separate marketing offices, with several set to close, with some job losses. Ladbroke hopes to appoint one advertising agency, while a design agency has been appointed to create a single logo.

Ladbroke has told the City not to expect any impact on the bottom line from the co-operation agreement until the second half of 1998, but the progress is likely to confirm a changing mood about the group's future.

Analysts are looking for pre-tax profits in a range of pounds 95m to pounds 100.5m, and it is expected that the group will come in towards the top end of the range, with earnings per share between 6p and 6.25p. And the gaming business will be able to celebrate the court victory over Camelot in its 49 numbers betting game.