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Whitbread plans "sale-and-manage-backs" on half its Marriott hotels

28 October 2004
Whitbread plans "sale-and-manage-backs" on half its Marriott hotels

Whitbread plans to dispose of up to half of its 52 four-star Marriott hotels in "sale-and-manage-back" deals over the next two years.

It is part of a drive to realise £800m-worth of assets that includes the imminent sale of Whitbread's 11 three-star Courtyard by Marriott hotels to, it is believed, Kew Green Hotels.

Whitbread will sell an initial 12 Marriotts between 2005 and 2006, but its one German hotel is likely to be sold outright.

Speaking at the group's interim results today, chief executive Alan Parker also outlined measures to save £30m in annual operating costs over two years, and to increase spending on expansion from £78m to a maximum £200m a year.

However, he scotched speculation that Whitbread would sell most of its restaurant brands.

Other disposals will, however, include up to 50 less-profitable pub-restaurants, along with the 61 Maredo's steakhouse restaurants in Germany and the group's former headquarters in London's Chiswell Street (although Whitbread will retain management of the Brewery Conference and Banqueting Centre).

The group also plans to sell its London head office and move to Bedfordshire and will float Britvic soft drinks (in which it has a 23.75% stake) between 2005 and 2008.

In the six months to 2 September, Whitbread boosted pre-tax profits before exceptional items by 9.4% to £147m, on turnover 4.6% ahead at £1.027b. Like-for-like sales grew by 3%.

These figures include six weeks' contribution from the 132 budget Premier Lodges and 19 adjacent pub-restaurants Whitbread bought in July

A small improvement at Marriott saw operating profits rise by 1.4% to £36.7m and sales grow by 0.9% to £196m.

The new management-only model will apply to a Marriott hotel to be built at Twickenham Stadium in partnership with the Rugby Football Union, and a new flagship hotel at the St Pancras complex in London.

High street restaurants also performed well. Operating profits soared by 53% to £12.2m, while sales increased by 6.7% to £221m.

The group plans to expand Pizza Hut to more than 800 outlets, and to expand Costa Coffee to 500 UK sites by 2008 by adding 50 venues a year.

New smaller-format TGI Friday's will be trialled later this year in Bath and Harrogate.

Pub-restaurants - which will unite under a single management team headed by Phil Urban - saw operating profits slide by 9.2% to £48.5m and sales fall by 0.6% to £306m.

The fall was blamed on the sale of 50 Beefeaters and the poor performance of the group's 31 Out and Out restaurants, which will be converted into Beefeaters or sold.

Whitbread's 57 David Lloyd Leisure health clubs also had a good year, boosting operating profits by 11% to £26.2m and sales by 9.3% to £109m.

by Angela Frewin

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