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Whitbread quashes City rumours of plans to issue equity in business

PREMIER Inn and Costa Coffee conglomerate Whitbread yesterday insisted that it has no plans for a rights issue to boost its finances.

Whitbread, which was responding to City speculation, said it was looking at “diversifying the sources and tenure of its debt” and could issue new debt in the next 12 months.

Whitbread, which also owns the Beefeater chain, had net debt of around £513.4m at the end of its financial year in March.

It added: “Whitbread confirms that it has no current intention of raising funds through the issue of equity.”

Bank credit facilities of £1.15bn are due to run out by March 2013, with the first reduction of around £225m expected in December 2010.

Whitbread’s new chief executive Andy Harrison, formerly of easyJet, starts in September, when he takes over from Alan Parker. Parker has started collecting his pension, including a one-off payment of £5.4m.

He has been at Whitbread for 18 years, and will be entitled to an annual payment of just over £135,000 on top of the lump sum

he has already received.

The company has a market value of around £2.4bn at its current price and has risen in value under his stewardship.

Parker, 63, slimmed down the group, and sold off assets such as its fitness club chain at the top of the market. Harrison will receive a basic salary of £700,000.