Accor steps up transformation, hikes 2012 dividend
PARIS Feb 20 (Reuters) - French group Accor, Europe's largest hotelier, said it would hike its 2012 dividend by 17 percent on the back of higher operating profits, as robust emerging markets made up for a more difficult economic climate in Europe.
The world's fourth-largest player, which is accelerating its shift to an "asset light" business model - operating more hotels under contracts rather than owning them - said this strategy would cut net debt by 2 billion euros ($2.67 billion) by 2016.
Accor, which trails InterContinental, Marriott and Starwood Hotels, said 2012 earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) reached 526 million euros, against the company's guidance of 510-530 million and exactly in line with analysts' average estimate of 526 million.
This represented a like-for-like rise of 3 percent from 515 million euros in 2011, restated for the sale of U.S. budget hotel chain Motel 6. ($1 = 0.7487 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan)