April 18, 2018 / 5:51 PM / a month ago

France's AccorHotels upbeat about 2018 after strong first quarter sales

PARIS (Reuters) - AccorHotels (ACCP.PA), Europe’s biggest hotel group, was upbeat about 2018 prospects after reporting a 9.5 percent rise in first quarter revenue, driven by robust business in Europe and Asia while growth resumed in Brazil.

FILE PHOTO: Jean-Jacques Morin, Chief Financial Officer of French hotel operator AccorHotels, attends the company's 2017 annual results presentation in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

“After this strong quarter, the group looks at the second quarter with confidence and optimism,” Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Morin told journalists.

Morin would not commit to a specific forecast and said the group would provide guidance on the full year in July.

The French company, with more than 4,000 hotels ranging from luxury Sofitels to the budget Ibis brand, said first-quarter revenue reached 633 million euros ($783.65 million).

This was a 9.5 percent like-for-like increase, stripping out acquisitions and currency effects.

AccorHotels, which competes with InterContinental (IHG.L), Marriott (MAR.O) and Starwood said revenue per available room (RevPAR), a key gauge of activity, rose 4.6 percent in Europe during the quarter.

In France, one of its biggest earnings drivers, the tourism industry has largely recovered from a series of deadly attacks in 2015 and 2016.

    RevPAR in France grew 5.2 percent in the quarter, driven by an 8.1 percent jump in Paris, where prices were rising.

    Morin said he had seen no impact at this stage on the group’s business from rail and Air France (AIRF.PA) strikes.

    In Asia, the Chinese New Year festivities in February helped drive revPAR up 5.3 percent. In Brazil, which is emerging from a three-year recession, revPAR rose 12.8 percent.

    AccorHotels has been cutting costs, expanding in the luxury end of the market and investing in new areas such as concierge services to boost growth and fight the rising challenges posed by companies such as Airbnb and online travel agents.

    Last month, it agreed to sell 55 percent of its AccorInvest property business to a group of sovereign and institutional investors to gain greater financial leeway.

    AccorHotels clinched a deal last year to buy Mantra Group Ltd (MTR.AX) for A$1.18 billion to create the biggest hotel group in Australia, and this month the firm bought a 50 percent of Mantis Group, the South Africa-based hospitality group.

    AccorHotel shares closed up 0.5 percent at 44.58 euros on Wednesday before the figures were published, bringing gains so far this year to 3.2 percent.

    Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Matthias Blamont and Edmund Blair

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