Thistle Hotels

Telephone:

0870 413 5602

Activities:

Thistle operates 50 hotels in the UK, of which 31 are managed for Atlantic hotels, two are managed for other parties and the rest are owned or leased.

The company is the UK’s sixth-largest hotel group by bedroom numbers and the biggest player in the London market, which accounts for 6,000 of its 10,000-plus bedrooms.

The group operates in the four- and five-star sector. In late 2004, it unveiled its new global deluxe brand, Guoman, with the reopening of London’s Cumberland hotel after a £95m facelift.

Chief Executive:

Tim Scoble

Key People:

Chairman: Quek Leng Chan
Chief financial officer: Mike O'Mahoney
Group sales and marketing director: Stuart Leven

Commentary:

Ownership questions have overshadowed Thistle for many years, with constant speculation that BIL was looking to offload its majority stake. Things reached a head in 2002 when a sale-and-leaseback deal with Orb Estates sparked a series of legal wrangles and a possible takeover by Orb and in 2003 when BIL launched a successful hostile takeover.

Just when things seemed to be settled, Thistle’s chairman submitted a bid in mid-2005 after upping his stake in the company to more than 30%.

BIL’s takeover was underpinned by its belief that the company had underperformed since its 1996 flotation and, not for the first time, it installed a new management team.

Since the BIL takeover, Thistle has disposed of non-core properties and upgraded and modernised its properties in a bid to regain the more upmarket position it held a decade ago. As chief executive Amarsi explained in 2004: “We want to be in the four- to five-star sector instead of the three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half range where we are.”

Spearheading this drive was the launch of the Guoman brand (meaning ‘international gateway’ in Mandarin) when the flagship Cumberland hotel reopened in London’s Marble Arch in October 2004 after a £95m refit. 

The Guoman name will be used on a line of upscale international hotels in major cities that could in time see Thistle make its overseas debut. Meanwhile, The Royal Horseguards and the Tower, Victoria and Charing Cross Thistles in London are all earmarked for conversion to the new brand.

Since December 2003, Thistle has been busy forming marketing alliances with a number of overseas brands. They include Singapore-based Meritus (which has 13 hotels in the Far East), First Hotels (with 61 Scandinavian properties), Affinia hospitality (nine New York hotels), Rotana (13 hotels in the Middle East) and Spanish giant NH Hoteles.

Strategy:

"Our vision for Thistle is to be a full-service, four- to five-star hotel management company in key gateway locations, offering excellent product and service to our customers and superior financial returns to our hotel owners."

Source: BIL final results statement, 31 August 2004

Operating Data:

Number of hotels: 50, one under the Guoman brand

Number of employees: about 5,000

Thistle results for the year to 30 June 2005

Total turnover: £287.1m (2004: £279.3m)
Turnover for London hotels: £165.2m (2004: £162.4m)
Turnover for provincial hotels: £121.9m (2004: £116.9m)

The turnover figures exclude the 33 managed properties, along with the Cumberland hotel and the two hotels sold to Permira in mid-2004.

BIL hotel figures for the year to 30 June 2005

Turnover: $300.4m or £166.2m (2004: $266.6m or £147.5m)
Profit before depreciation and amortisation: $148.5m or £82.1m (2004: $101.3m or £56m)

London hotels:
Occupancy: 78.8% (2004: 81.5%)
Average room rate: £80 (2004: £73.8)
Revenue per available room (revpar): £63 (£60.2)

Regional hotels:
Occupancy: 68.5 (2004: 67.2%)
Average room rate: £57.1 (2004: £55.2)
Revpar: £39.1 (2004: £37.1)

Total group hotels
Occupancy: 74% (2004: 74.8%)
Average room rate: £70.1 (2004: £66)
Revpar: £51.9 (2004: £49.4)

Address:

Victoria Thistle Hotel
Buckingham Palace Road
London,

UK