InterContinental First-Half Profit Rises on Gains in U.S.

IHG CEO Remains Upbeat Despite Uncertain Environment
  • Americas growth trumps slowdowns in all other regions
  • Post Brexit fall in the pound may help company’s bottom line

InterContinental Hotels Group Plc, owner of the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands, said first-half earnings rose as a resilient U.S. market made up for slowdowns in other regions.

Operating profit before one-time items climbed 2.1 percent to $344 million, with gains in the Americas driving growth, the Denham, England-based company said in a statement on Tuesday. That beat a $332.9 million average estimate by seven analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Revenue fell 8.4 percent to $838 million after the company sold properties in Paris and Hong Kong.

"Despite the uncertain environment in some markets, we remain confident in the outlook for the remainder of the year," Chief Executive Officer Richard Solomons said in the statement.

Demand for European hotel rooms has been hit by traveler uncertainty in the wake of terrorist attacks in France and an attempted coup in Turkey. Accor SA, Europe’s biggest hotel operator, said last week that first-half profit fell 4 percent partly due to its French business. The Americas region accounts for more than half of InterContinental’s sales.

Operating profit in Europe fell 5.6 percent to $34 million -- hurt partly by the sale of the InterContinental Paris Le Grand last year -- with revenue per available room in Paris dropping 19.5 percent. In the Middle East, revenue per available room was down 8 percent due to the ongoing impact of low oil prices. In the Americas, profit rose 6.1 percent to $313 million.

"Favorable economic fundamentals and historically modest levels of new supply in the U.S. continue to support growth in our largest region, where demand continues to be at an all-time high," InterContinental said.

The company said it’s increasing its interim dividend by 9 percent to 30 cents per share.

The U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union may help InterContinental achieve administrative savings, it said.

"With a substantial proportion of our central costs denominated in sterling, we would even benefit at a profit level if the post-referendum sterling exchange rate is maintained," the company said, noting that only a small portion of its hotels are located in the U.K.

InterContinental, which has about 750,000 rooms in about 100 countries, lost its ranking as the world’s biggest hotel company after a wave of consolidation created increasingly large competitors. Marriott International Inc. completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. this year, and Accor bought the owner of the upscale Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel brands.

Investors spent $85 billion on hotel deals last year, 50 percent more than in 2014, according to data compiled by Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. InterContinental conducted talks with financial advisers about whether to sell itself or combine with a competitor, people with knowledge of the matter said in November.

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