Takings slip 4% at Premier Inn owner amid economic and political uncertainty
Premier Inn owner Whitbread has posted lower profits in the first half of the year as it was weighed down by "difficult" UK trading conditions.
The company, which has seven hotels in Northern Ireland, saw like-for-like UK accommodation sales decline by 3.6% for the six months to September due to weaker sales outside of London.
Whitbread said that market conditions have remained "challenging" as consumer confidence is still weak amid "heightened political and economic uncertainty".
The FTSE 100 company said the slump in confidence has continued into the third quarter and that "near-term market conditions in the UK remain uncertain".
Adjusted revenue for the half year dipped 0.1% to £1.08 billion, while adjusted pre-tax profit slipped 4.1% to £236 million as margins were squeezed.
Whitbread said profits were dented by weaker domestic hotel demand, particularly in regional areas, where it has 80% of Premier Inn sites.
It also noted that it saw a "greater decline" in the number of short-notice bookings, which are typically priced higher.
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Despite this, Whitbread said it "retained a strong balance sheet" as it benefited from the £3.9 billion sale of the Costa Coffee chain to Coca-Cola last year.
The company said it will invest in its hotels by opening more higher-specification Premier Plus rooms, with plans for 2,000 of these by the end of next year.