Whitbread reports strong progress in challenging market despite profit fall
Whitbread said it continues to make strong strategic progress in challenging market conditions, despite reporting a decline in profits.
The Premier Inn parent company, which has 90,000 open and committed rooms in the UK, recorded a 0.1% fall in revenue in the first half of the financial year to £1b, with pre-tax profits of £251m, down from £266m the previous year.
Whitbread reported that total accommodation sales fell by 0.6%, with like-for-like sales contracting by 3.6%. It said weaker regional market conditions had a particular impact, but that an efficiency programme was continuing to tackle this.
Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said: "We have delivered a resilient first-half profit performance despite challenging market conditions in the UK. Shorter-term trading conditions in the UK regional market have been difficult, particularly in the business segment, where we have a higher proportion of our revenue, while trading in London remained strong.
"Against this challenging backdrop, we have a number of activities under way, which continue to build our brand strength as the UK's favourite hotel chain. We are enhancing and optimising our UK hotel network and have successfully trialled new higher-specification Premier Plus rooms in two hotels, with fantastic customer feedback. We are on track to have 500 Premier Plus rooms this year, with ambitions for a total of 2,000 over the next year. We have also made good progress in delivering our ambitious efficiency targets, helping to offset part of the ongoing industry-wide inflation."
The company said it was also accelerating growth in Germany, where it has almost 8,000 open and committed rooms.
Whitbread has also completed a capital return programme that saw £2.5b returned to shareholders following its sale of Costa last year.