Whitbread warns on Premier Inn as profits jump

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The Independent Online

Whitbread, the coffee shop and pub restaurant operator, posted a 9 per cent rise in full-year pre-tax profits that beat market expectations, but warned the consumer recession had started to hit its Premier Inn budget hotels since the year end.

Alan Parker, Whitbread's chief executive, said: "Premier Inn had a slowdown in occupancy terms in the second half of the financial year and that has continued and softened a bit in the last two months." The group expects that its revenue per available room (revpar) – a key measure for the hotel sector – will be down by between 5 and 10 per cent this financial year.

But Mr Parker insisted Whitbread had continued to outperform the market. He added that both Costa Coffee and its Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurants had maintained positive like-for-like sales since the year end. For the year to 26 February 2009, Whitbread delivered pre-tax profits up by 9.3 per cent to £229m, on total sales from continuing operations that grew by 9.7 per cent to £1.3 bn. Over the year, Premier Inn grew revenues by 14 per cent, Costa delivered sales up 22 per cent and its restaurants were up by 3.2 per cent. It maintained its final dividend at 26.9p.

Whitbread is to chop its capital expenditure by £110m to £170m this year. But the group will still deliver 2,000 new rooms at Premier Inn, primarily in the UK, in 2009/10. It will also open 100 new Costa outlets in the UK this year. Mr Parker said: "I suspect we will be opening more rooms and coffee shops than anyone else in the UK."

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