* Q1 total sales up 13 pct, like-for-like sales up 6.9 pct
* Premier Inn sales up 9.5 pct, RevPAR up 8.8 pct
* Costa UK sales up 4.5 pct
* Restaurant sales up 4.4 pct
* Shares rise up to 3.6 pct, up 43 pct over last year
(Adds detail, CEO, analyst comment, shares)
By James Davey
LONDON, June 17 Whitbread, Britain's
biggest hotel operator, said growth in demand outside of London
was a clear sign that the country's economic recovery is
Shares in Whitbread rose as much as 3.6 percent on Tuesday
after a strong performance from its Premier Inns hotel business
drove a 6.9 percent increase in the company's underlying
Premier Inn's like-for-like sales rose 9.5 percent in the 13
weeks to May 29, while revenue per available room (RevPAR), a
key industry measure, increased 8.8 percent.
While the London hotel market has been strong for over a
year as Britain emerged from a prolonged economic downturn, that
has not been the case outside of the capital.
"I think what's interesting is if you look in the UK
regions, where RevPar for the total hotel market is up 9.2
percent," Chief Executive Andy Harrison told Reuters.
"We know that hotel demand is quite closely linked to
economic activity, so it tells us that there are clear signs of
economic recovery in the UK regions which we were not seeing a
year ago," he said. "We are seeing a good performance right
throughout the UK."
The Bank of England says there is room for further growth in
the economy before it raises interest rates although some of its
policymakers have started to say they see a growing case for a
Whitbread has grown rapidly in recent years due to demand
from cost-conscious customers for affordable hotels and an
increasing trend for takeaway coffee which has driven growth at
its Costa chain.
Costa UK's first-quarter like-for-like sales grew 4.5
Underlying sales at the group's restaurant business, which
includes the Brewers Fayre and Beefeater brands, rose 4.4
percent, helped by a weak comparative number in the same period
last year when the weather was poor.
"Underlying, the restaurant market is finding life tough
because consumer real disposable income is under pressure.
However, there are more people in employment, the housing market
is stronger and confidence has picked-up," said Harrison.
The group's overall first-quarter sales compare to
like-for-like sales growth of 4.2 percent in the 2013-14
Shares in Whitbread, which have risen 43 percent over the
last year, were up 149 pence at 4,316 pence at 0850 GMT.
Prior to Tuesday's update, analysts were on average
forecasting 2014-15 pretax profit of 460 million pounds, up from
412 million pounds in 2013-14.
"Although comparatives become more difficult in H2, we
consider risks to forecasts are on the upside," said analysts at
Oriel Securities, who have a "buy" rating on the company's
Whitbread has 43 new Premier Inn hotels under construction
in the UK and expects to open around 4,500 new rooms this year.
Costa is expected to open around 300 net new stores this year.
(Editing by Kate Holton and Tom Pfeiffer)