No post-election business bookings bounce for Premier Inn

(Reuters) - Premier Inn owner Whitbread WTB.L reported a 2.2% fall in UK like-for-like sales year to date on Thursday, cautioning clarity on Brexit following a decisive British election last month had yet to deliver a bounce in business bookings.

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Whitbread warned multiple times last year that it saw companies cutting back on business trips amid tortuous negotiations over Britain’s plans to leave the European Union.

On Thursday, the bluechip company said that weakening confidence among people making business or leisure trips in the UK continued.

Whitbread shares were down fell 5.5% to 4,574 pence at 0923 GMT following the announcement and on course for their biggest one-day fall since April.

“Clearly people are feeling better post the election in general terms but that was very recent... we haven’t yet seen that transfer into any data on business confidence or increased investment that may come,” Chief Executive Officer Alison Brittain said on a media call.

“We have seen a small improvement but not a bounce (in business bookings),” Brittain said. “We are seeing a buoyant London market and a much more subdued regional market... there is still a very negative position in the regional market.”

Whitbread, which operates more than 80,000 rooms in the UK and elsewhere under its flagship brand, said it expects in-line results for the current fiscal year to Feb 29.

It also owns brands including Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Bar + Block, but has been more focused on hotels since selling its Costa Coffee business for 3.9 billion pounds last year.

It expects to open 20 hotels this year in Germany, where it forecast losses of 12 million pounds this year and 10 million pounds in fiscal 2021.

(Graphic: Whitbread stock price vs FTSE 100 since Brexit referendum - )

Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; editing by Anil D’Silva and Jason Neely