Whitbread sees profit at top of forecasts after strong trading

LONDON Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:29am EST

LONDON Feb 27 (Reuters) - Britain's Whitbread said full-year results would reach the top end of market forecasts as growing demand across its Premier Inn hotels, Costa Coffee and restaurant businesses helped sales rise in the group's fourth quarter.

The company said on Thursday group like-for-like sales rose 6.8 percent in the 11 weeks to Feb. 13, up from 4.3 percent in its last quarter, with underlying sales at its Premier Inn and UK Costa divisions up 8.3 percent and 7.3 percent respectively.

Premier Inn's revenue per available room (RevPAR), a key industry measure, rose 9.6 percent, up from 6.5 percent in the previous quarter, feeling the benefits of an improving hotel market in both London and its much larger regional business.

Underlying sales at the group's restaurant business, which includes brands such as Brewers Fayre rose 4.4 percent, helped by strong demand over Christmas.

Whitbread, whose shares hit an all-time high of 4,221 pence on Tuesday, said the strong group performance meant it expected to deliver full-year results at the top end of expectations.

The group is expected to post a pretax profit between 371 and 406 million pounds, with an average consensus of 393 million pounds, according to a Reuters poll of 20 analysts.