|By Caroline Byrne, Daily Mail, London|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 28, 2004 - The world's largest hotel chain, InterContinental Hotels, doubled first-quarter pretax profits to UKpound 50 million after a rebound in travel on both sides of the Atlantic despite terror threats.
Asia Pacific sales returned to levels last seen before the Sars outbreak.
Chief executive Richard North said there were tentative signs of a European recovery, particularly in
Eastern Europe. But Paris remains weak.
"We are very encouraged but there is still much to do," said North. "The first half of 2003 was the worst period the industry has ever experienced."
IHG, once part of the Bass group, runs the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza chains and hs 3,500 hotels in 100 countries. Its Britannia Soft Drinks arm lifted profits 25 percent to UKpound 10 million.
UBS analyst Julian East-hope said: "The results look reassuring but the key thing is their hotel asset disposal programme."
IHG has sold UKpound 314 million assets since April 2003 to aid its recovery. North plans to sell a further UKpound 500 million of hotels. Brokers hope this could trigger cash returns to shareholders.
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