Alan Parker, chief executive of Whitbread, has mounted a robust defence of the company's future claiming private equity has missed the opportunity to buy the hotel and coffee chain operator "on the cheap".
Speaking in today's Financial Times, Parker suggested that the opportunity to buy Whitbread has gone as the share price has slowly risen from 500p in 2004 when Parker became chief executive, to £19.46 last week in the wake of Blackstone's purchase of Hilton.
"Clearly the opportunity for acquiring Whitbread on the cheap has passed," he insisted.
During his tenure Whitbread has sold £2.7b worth of assets, including Marriott hotels, Beefeater and Brewers Fayre pubs and restaurants and the David Lloyd Leisure fitness chain in order to focus on Premier Travel Inn and the Costa Coffee chain.
Parker justified the strategy claiming that London was under-served by budget hotels and he intended to build more of them to add to their existing stock, about to be re-branded Premier Inn, of 480.
"There is a lot of old stock out there - under demolished, under competitive and overpriced," he told the paper.
"That gives us the opportunity of building up a value for money hotel budget business. I don't see any sign of that tailing off."
Recent speculation has pointed to Starwood Capital being a potential Whitbread suitor.
By Christopher Walton
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