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Costa profits aid Whitbread

WHITBREAD yesterday reported profits that beat analysts&rsquo; expectations thanks to its coffee chain Costa, although its hotel business continued to suffer in the slump. <br /><br />Whitbread, which owns hotel chain Premier Inn, reported a 2.7 per cent dip in pre-tax profits to &pound;118.2m in the six months to 27 August, but this was still ahead of forecasts.<br /><br />Costa posted a 72.6 per cent rise in operating profits to &pound;12.6m, and reported a 20.6 per cent rise in total sales to &pound;128.9m. Like-for-like sales at the coffee chain were up by 2.5 per cent.<br /><br />In contrast the group&rsquo;s chain of budget hotels, Premier Inns, suffered in the slump, as cash-strapped customers cut back on short breaks away.<br /><br />Like-for-like sales at Premier Inn fell by 7.5 per cent, while revenue per available room (Revpar) &ndash; the key measure for hotel trading &ndash; was down by 9.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis. <br /><br />But this drop still beats the rest of the hotel market, which has suffered a 12 per cent decline in Revpar.<br /><br />Chief executive Alan Parker said: &ldquo;Weekend occupancy is now starting to improve, but the recession has made things very tough. It hit the hotel industry hard earlier in the year.&rdquo; <br /><br />The group has recently&nbsp; launched &ldquo;Premier offers&rdquo; in a bid to attract cash-strapped holiday makers. Parker said this had resulted in a 60 per cent jump in&nbsp; new customers.<br />