Whitbread on expansion drive after 28% profit rise
Hotel to cafe company Whitbread said it was well placed to accelerate growth plans - including new hotels and cafes creating up to 200 jobs in Northern Ireland - after posting a 28% rise in group profits.
An advertising campaign fronted by comedian Lenny Henry and a £29 a room offer helped lift like-for-like sales at the hotel chain in the first half of Whitbread's financial year by 10.1%.
The group, which also owns Costa Coffee and restaurants including Brewers Fayre, said it was now positioned to increase the rate of new hotel openings, and plans to open at least 1,700 rooms in 18 hotels across the UK before March.
It is to open its third Belfast hotel in the Titanic Quarter before the end of this year - and a further hotel is also planned for opening in 2011. It is also set to open six new Costa coffee shops.
A spokeswoman could not confirm where either the next hotel or the six cafes would be located.
But she said the openings could create up to 200 new jobs.
Whitbread posted pre-tax profits of £151m in the six months to September 2, on total revenues of £805m, a 14.5% increase on last year.
Delivering his last set of results before easyJet boss Andy Harrison steps in, chief executive Alan Parker said: "Whitbread has performed strongly in both good times and during the recession and is well placed to grow in the current environment.
"While the economic outlook remains uncertain we are confident in the outturn for the year."
Premier Inn, which generates around a third of Whitbread's profits, saw revenues increase 14% to £355.7m in the first half.
The hotel chain was boosted by corporate demand as business account revenues increased 24% to £103m, while it also saw reservations via its website increase to 58% of total bookings.
Whitbread said it also plans to expand its Costa chain, which is currently the second largest coffee shop operator in the world.
More than 130 new stores are planned in the UK and overseas in the next six months, bringing the total by the end of the financial year to 1,850 stores, with some 1,200 in the UK.