Whitbread ramps up expansion plans as profit rises
LONDON (Reuters) - Whitbread (WTB.L) unveiled new expansion targets for its Premier Inn hotel and Costa Coffee chains on Tuesday, as strong sales at both helped push annual profit up 11.4 percent.
Britain's biggest hotel and coffee chain operator said it would grow Premier Inn UK rooms by 45 percent to 75,000 by 2018, and double total sales at Costa Coffee to 2 billion pounds.
Those plans, which it said would create 12,000 jobs over five years, compare to previous 2016 targets of 65,000 rooms at Premier Inn and worldwide sales of 1.3 billion pounds at Costa.
The firm, which also runs the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre pub restaurant chains, said strong sales at both in the year to February 28 had pushed annual underlying pretax profit up to 356.5 million pounds, up from 320.1 million a year ago and broadly in line with analysts' consensus forecast of 351.8 million.
Total revenue rose 14.2 percent to just over 2 billion pounds. Sales at Premier Inn, which currently has 51,671 rooms, rose 13.1 percent, while total global sales at Costa rose 22.6 percent to 1 billion pounds.
Whitbread has expanded rapidly on growing demand for more affordable hotels during the economic downturn and a rising popularity across Britain for coffee on the go.
Shares in Whitbread, which have risen 13 percent in six months, closed at 2611 pence on Monday, valuing the business at around 4.7 billion pounds.
(Reporting by Neil Maidment, Editing by Christine Murray)
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