UPDATE 1-M&C has tough start to 2013 as annual profit slips

Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:51am EST

* RevPAR down 1.1 pct in first 6 weeks of 2013 vs 3.4 pct rise in 2012

* Headline FY pretax profit down 15.0 pct to 157.7 mln stg

* FY RevPAR grew by 3.4 pct; Q4 up 0.9 pct

* Says will monitor acquisition opportunities

LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Hotelier Millennium & Copthorne said strong competition had pushed revenue per room down in the first six weeks of 2013, as it posted an expected fall in annual profit.

M&C, which operates over 100 hotels worldwide, on Friday said underlying pretax profit for the year was 157.7 million pounds ($240 million), down 15 percent from 184.7 million a year ago when it was boosted by the sale of land in Kuala Lumpur.

It had been expected on average to post a pretax profit of 158.15 million pounds for 2012, according to a Reuters poll.

The group, whose hotel brands include Millennium, Grand Millennium, Copthorne and Kingsgate, said annual growth in global revenue per available room (RevPAR) - a key hotel industry measure - was up 3.4 percent on higher room rates.

M&C, which has been renovating many of its hotels to help boost rates, said like-for-like group RevPAR had fallen 1.1 percent in the first six weeks of the new year compared to a 3.4 percent rise in the same period a year ago. Its three main gateway cities Singapore, London and New York all down, it said.

M&C Chairman Kwek Leng Beng said the firm continued to monitor acquisition opportunities but noted that prices were currently "unjustifiably high".

On Tuesday the world No. 1 hotelier InterContinental Hotels posted an 11 percent rise in 2012 profit thanks to strong business in U.S. and Greater China. Rivals Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International both also reported better than expected results this month.

Shares in M&C, majority-owned by Kwek Leng Beng's Singapore-based property company City Developments Ltd , closed at 568 pence on Thursday, up 23 percent on three months ago, valuing the business at around 1.84 billion pounds.