Stelios books up stock market flotation for easyHotel chain

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The Independent Online

EasyHotel, the budget hotel chain launched last year by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, will vie with easyCruise to become the next orange-liveried offering from the entrepreneur to seek a stock market listing.

The cheap-and-orange hotel chain is seeking its first chief executive, who will be charged with building up a global group before a likely initial public offering in the next three to five years. So far, just one of the prolific entrepreneur's 16 "easy" brands is quoted: easyJet.

Earlier this month, easyCruise hired Gwyn Hughes, the former director of P&O Cruises, to build the cruise ship group before a possible IPO.

Mr Haji-Ioannou, whose interests span watches, male grooming products and pizzas, is hopeful that easyHotel could be his best investment. The first hotel opened last year in central London to mixed reviews from guests who bemoaned the cramped rooms and marvelled at the cheap rates.

The hotel group is poised to grow internationally by seeking franchise partners. The first franchisee opened in Basel, Switzerland, last September.

Last month, the group struck a deal with a Dubai-based investment house to roll out the chain into 16 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and India. Istithmar is sinking $400m (£220m) into building the properties, which will have between 80 and 120 rooms. Two further hotels are set to open in London later this year.

Franchising the easyHotel brand keeps Mr Haji-Ioannou's costs down, prompting him to claim that the hotel chain is giving him his best return on equity from all of his myriad brands. The company said it made a "modest" profit in its first year.

EasyHotel is facing competition in the budget sphere from Yotel, the latest offering from the Yo Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe. The first Yotels will open this November in London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

An easyGroup spokesman said the new hotel boss, who will take over from Mr Haji-Ioannou, would need experience of both the hotel industry and franchising.

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