Millennium profits rise catches City out

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Millennium & Copthorne, one of the most successful of last year's clutch of hotel industry flotations, left analysts' forecasts standing yesterday as it announced a sparkling set of full- year figures. The City shrugged off news that the company's chief executive was to leave within three months, as soon as a replacement can be found.

Edouard Gremlich joined Millennium's former parent, Singapore-based CDL, three years ago and was given the remit of building up the company in preparation for a flotation. Having done so, and seen the company's shares prosper in its first year on the London market, he wanted to spend more time with his family in Boston.

He leaves a hotel group, mainly London and New York-based but with a chain of UK provincial hotels and a handful of sites in France and Germany, which saw profits grow 63 per cent to pounds 39m in the 12 months to December. Analysts, who had expected profits of around pounds 34m, were busily upgrading their forecasts for the current year to as high as pounds 48m.

Millennium's shares closed 6.5p higher last night at 383p, well above the 278p at which they were placed last April.

Profits were driven by high levels of occupancy, even in London where an extensive refurbishment programme put its Gloucester and Bailey's hotels out of commission during the year, and rising room rates. In London the achieved rate rose 15 per cent from pounds 62.85 to pounds 72.19. Revenue per available room increased by 12 per cent in London, 16 per cent in the UK provinces and by 10 per cent in New York.

Investment column, page 16