InterContinental says to launch new hotel chain in China

InterContinental Hotels Group said Tuesday that it will launch a new upper mid-scale hotel brand in China by the end of 2011.

Chief executive Andrew Cosslett, addressing a press conference for the group's annual results, said the new hotels would be positioned between its upscale chain Crowne Plaza and luxury brand InterContinental.

The London-based company, which is the world's largest hotel operator by number of rooms, plans to more than double the size of its operations in the key emerging markets of China, India and the Middle East in the next few years.

InterContinental is seeking to tap into growing traveller numbers and global economic trends, boosted by increased life expectancy, the use of low-cost airlines and increased Internet access.

The group estimates that China will overtake the United States as the world's biggest hotel market by 2025.

Earlier on Tuesday, InterContinental announced that its 2010 net profit jumped 38 percent to $293 million (217 million euros).

The company, which also owns the Holiday Inn chain, said revenue rose 6.0 percent to $1.63 billion last year as the recovering global economy boosted business travel.

"2010 was an excellent year for IHG," added Cosslett said in the group's earnings statement.

"After a slow start to the year, the industry staged the sharpest recovery in its history, exceeding all expectations," he said, with the company boosting its dividend payout sharply.

"The 21 percent growth in the final dividend reflects our confidence in IHG's prospects. Our priority is to increase market share and improve margins in an industry set for strong growth over the next few years."

- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report -

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