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UPDATE 2-Whitbread's Premier Inn scores Olympics win
* Q2 like-for-like sales up 4.2 pct
* Says ambitious growth programme on track
* Shares rise to all-time high
By Paul Sandle
LONDON, Sept 6 (Reuters) - The Olympics and wet weather helped generate business for Whitbread this summer, with the London Games boosting room rates at its Premier Inn while shoppers sheltered in Costa Coffee, raising second-quarter like-for-like sales by 4.2 percent.
Shares in the group rose to an all-time high of 2,248 pence in morning trade as analysts said the numbers beat expectations.
Chief Executive Andy Harrison said the Olympics contributed just over 1 percentage point to revenue per available room at its budget Premier Inn hotel chain, which saw like-for-like sales rise 3.2 percent in the 11 weeks to August 16.
"We could have made more money in the short term but we believe that the Premier Inn brand and its perception for great value-for-money is far more important," he told reporters on Thursday.
Equivalent sales at Costa Coffee shops, which lead the British market, grew 5.7 percent.
"The relatively poor weather has benefited Costa's like-for-likes by perhaps a percentage point or so," Harrison said.
Whitbread's stock was trading up 6 percent at 2,2205by 0912 GMT, the biggest riser in the FTSE 100 index.
Analyst Greg Johnson at Shore Capital said Whitbread had continued the strong performance seen in its first quarter.
He said the like-for-like performance was far better than the 1-2 percent expected, given tough comparatives a year ago.
Whitbread, which also runs Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurants, said total sales for the 11 weeks to Aug. 16 rose by 14.8 percent.
Harrison said trading remained variable, reflecting Britain's tough economic climate, but the group's brands continued to win market share.
He said the difficulties at Premier Inn rival Travelodge, which agreed a rescue deal with creditors and landlords on Tuesday, highlighted the difference between the two brands.
"We have widened the gap in the minds of the consumers between ourselves and our competition and that is definitely one of the important facts behinds this good sales performance." he said.
He said Whitbread's ambitious growth programmer was on track, with plans to open another 350 Costa Coffee sites, across both Britain and Asia, and 4,500 Premier Inn rooms this financial year.
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