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Having Beat 2011 Profit Forecast for London, Hotel Giant, IHG,
Goes for Olympic Gold with More than 50 London Hotels
and 80% Booking Already for the Games

By Nick Goodway, London Evening StandardMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 14, 2012--Intercontinental Hotels, the world's biggest hotel operator, beat City forecasts for its 2011 profits and accompanied that with a bumper dividend hike.

"You can really call this a great British success story," said chief executive Richard Solomons. "We are the largest hotel group in the world based in Britain but the UK accounts for just 5 percent of our revenues."

He is excited about the Olympics and Queen's Jubilee effect on his British hotels this year, with two new Holiday Inn and Staybridge hotels opending at Stratford and IHG offering more than 50 London hotels.

He said: "We are now 80 percent booked for the Games. It's not just London hotels and there has been a good knock-on effect to further out-of-town hotels. We are also managing the main athlete and official accommodation units in the Olympic Village, drafting in more than 100 of our best general managers from around the globe."

London's InterContinental Park Lane remained one of the star performers last year, with revenues per available room up by 7.3 percent in 2011 against growth across the entire group of 6.2 percent. But China and the US remain the drivers with revenues per available room growing by 10.7 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.

IHG plans to launch two new brands of hotel this year, one for each of those regions. Solomons is playing it close to his chest which position in the market these will take, although its seems likely the US brand will be mass market and the Chinese upmarket.

He hopes they can reproduce the growth of Hotel Indigo, the group's boutique hotels label, which has gone from zero to 100 planned hotels in seven years.

The only major weak points during 2011 were Egypt and Bahrain which were hit by uprisings, and Japan, where the economy was still recovering from the tsunami.

Pre-tax profits rose by 34 percent to $532 million (pounds sterling 337.6 million) on revenues up by 9 percent to $1.8 billion for the full year. The dividend has been increased by 15 percent to 55 cents a share.

In January, revenues per available room rose by 6 percent while room rates are 3.5 percent ahead of a year ago. That is better than the group saw in the final quarter of 2011.

Solomons said: "In spite of the considerable uncertainty in the eurozone, IHG is well positioned to globally benefit from positive, long-term industry trends, and, in particular, growing demand in emerging markets."


(c)2012 the London Evening Standard

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