Whitbread plots growth of Costa shops in France

Kasmira Jefford
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AFTER winning over coffee addicts in the UK, Whitbread said yesterday it plans to take its Costa Coffee chain to France as it posted a jump in profits and rewarded shareholders with a 20 per cent rise in its dividend.

The FTSE 100 company, which also owns the Premier Inn hotel chain, said underlying operating profits rose 16.5 per cent in the year to 27 February to £411.8m, thanks to demand for affordable rooms and takeaway lattes.

Sales grew by 13 per cent thanks to its growing footprint of hotels and coffee shops, while like-for-like revenues were up 4.2 per cent.

The group, which has more than 2,800 Costa stores across the world, including 1,755 in the UK and 326 in China, trialled four owned stores in Paris last year and plans to open five more this year.

“We have opened our own stores because we think France could be a big market. We’ve gone into Spain and have franchised there, whereas France we have gone in ourselves because we think it could be sizeable,” chief executive Andy Harrison said.

Costa’s total revenues were up 20.1 per cent while Premier Inn grew sales by 13.4 per cent after opening a net 23 new hotels last year.

Whitbread said trading in the first two months of its new financial year had started well and that it was on track to reach its target of 75,000 UK rooms by 2018, from 55,000 now, and double Costa sales to £2bn.

It also lifted its full-year dividend by 19.9 per cent to 68.80p.

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