IHG profit rise fuelled by business travellers

InterContinental Hotels – the world's biggest hotelier – reported a recovery in the hotel market helped by the return of the business traveller as it beat forecasts with a 22 per cent rise in first-half profits.

The company, which runs more than 650,000 rooms in over 4,500 hotels worldwide, posted an operating profit of $219m (£138m) for the first half of 2010.

Meanwhile the half-year dividend rose five per cent to 12.8 cents a share.

Chief Executive Andrew Cosslett said trading strengthened as the first half progressed with Asia leading the recovery, especially China.

Room occupancy was higher with business travellers returning in increasing numbers, he added.

He said: "Rates are now stabilising across the world, with most markets seeing growth towards the end of the first half. The economic environment does remain uncertain, however, with short booking windows and limited visibility.”

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Sales momentum has continued to build, with the results broadly reflecting global economic trends. China and Asia are leading the way, whilst the recovery in the financial sector is aiding important destinations such as New York and London.

"On the downside, management continues to highlight economic uncertainty – a fact evidenced by consumers' preference for short term bookings – whilst group costs have risen and debt continues to remain a focus."