Whitbread swings to interim loss but continues expansion in Germany

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Whitbread PLC (LON:WTB) posted an interim loss but said it is continuing to focus on its expansion in Germany, having signed deals for a further 15 hotels.

Since reopening its hotels in July, the Premier Inn owner also said its UK performance has been ahead of the market.

READ: IHG and Whitbread upgraded as JPMorgan sees business travel concerns as overdone

Occupancy in the UK increased from 51% in August to 58% in September, but market performance has slowed down since local lockdowns were implemented in October.

The firm expects profit and cash for this year to remain broadly consistent with the guidance shared in May, despite coronavirus (COVID-19) uncertainty ahead.

In the first half, Whitbread’s cash outflow was £100mln while the second half is expected to see an inflow of £28mln in addition to any changes in the level of customer deposits.

Capital spend is estimated to be around £120mln-£130mln in both periods, the group added, while the second half will see an extra £40mln related to the German acquisitions.

The UK government’s job retention scheme grant brought a benefit of £85mln during the first half and is expected to contribute a net £5mln-£10mln in the rest of the year.

In Germany, where the company is eyeing the growing budget hotel market, the committed pipeline is 68 hotels while the estate currently counts 29 sites.

In the six months to August 27, 2020, Whitbread’s revenue tanked by 77% while last year’s £219 profit before tax turned into a £724mln loss.

Whitbread had £936mln in the bank at the period end following a £1bn rights issue completed in June. It also had an undrawn Revolving Credit Facility of £950mln, and up to £600mln available under the Government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility scheme.

In a separate announcement, the firm said group HR director Louise Smalley will retire next spring so it is now looking for a successor.

“The strength of the Premier Inn brand should ensure it continues to outperform budget branded and independent competitors in a challenging market place, evidenced by Premier Inn’s market share increasing to 10.5% from 7% in the first half,” Liberum commented.

“However, we remain concerned about permanent changes towards business travel, which will hinder the recovery ahead.”

Shares dipped 1% to 2,226p early on Tuesday.

–Adds analyst comment, shares–

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