Whitbread in boost from Premier Inns

WHITBREAD has seen sales rise at its budget Premier Inns and Costa Coffee

bars, which will help it stay on target for its full-year forecasts, the company said yesterday.

Sales at Premier Inns open for more than a year grew 8.7 per cent in the third quarter to 2 December.

Occupancy rose to 80 per cent in the year to date, up from 70 per cent last year while revenue per available room (RevPAR), a key industry measure, grew 9.2 per cent to £43.70.

Meanwhile sales at Costa Coffee rose 11 per cent over the period, benefiting from a surge in demand for mince pies as the festive season approaches, with over 200,000 sold already this year.

The average forecast for full-year pre-tax profit across the company, which also includes the Beefeater chain, stands at £279m, compared with £208m the year before.

Andy Harrison, the former easyJet chief executive who succeeded Alan Parker as Whitbread chief executive last month, said the company was in good health and he would not be pursuing a change in strategy.

He added: “It’s always hard to see what the new year has got in store but Whitbread has traded very well throughout the recession and I believe we’ll do well whatever the economy throws at us.”

Whitbread is planning to expand its Premier Inns brand and has opened 26 new sites so far this year.

More than 300 new Costa outlets will have opened by the end of the financial year.

The total is now 1,200 in the UK and 650 internationally.

At its restaurant business, offers such as two meals for £10 at Brewers Fayre helped the group lift sales at outlets open more than a year by 1.5 per cent while rivals have seen sales decline.

ANALYST VIEWS: CAN WHITBREAD MAINTAIN GROWTH ACROSS ITS BRANDS? Interviews by John Dunne

SIMON FRENCH | PANMURE GORDON

We are not expecting consensus expectations to move upwards given what seems to have been a difficult start to the fourth quarter and harsh weather conditions.

RICHARD HUNTER | HARGREAVES LANSDOWN
Despite the company warning at the half year stage in October that the second half would be more difficult, Whitbread has maintained its impressive growth.

MARK BRUMBY | LANGTON CAPITAL
It’s a good company, operating in growing markets & focused on what it does best but the share price had got a little ahead of itself. Comparatives are tough and will get tougher through the fourth quarter.