Whitbread's chief weighs up options for expansion plan

WHITBREAD chief executive Alan Parker yesterday revealed he will be launching an extensive international and domestic expansion plan and took City analysts by surprise by hinting he might be prepared to tap shareholders for funds before Christmas.<br /><br />Whitbread, which owns budget hotel chain Premier Inn and Costa Coffee, has been eyeing up prospects in the Gulf and India. It plans to open its first Premier Inn in Bangalore at the end of this year, and has opened three in the Gulf states. <br /><br />The group, which had planned on opening 1,700 rooms in the current year has slowed down its rate of expansion due to the downturn, but wants to have a strong presence in 2012, when an upturn in the leisure sector is expected. The group has spotted potential 160 sites in the UK alone. Parker told City A.M.: &ldquo;We need to offer some hard trading numbers to investors. And if we can show them that we are coming out the other side in good shape, then I think we will get support&hellip;. if we go to the market.&rdquo;<br /><br />Parker added that a cash call would also depend on the group&rsquo;s share price &ndash; and its peers. &ldquo;Recently it&rsquo;s been rather soggy,&rdquo; he said.