Why Whitbread Is Up 36% This Year


LONDON -- Whitbread (ISE: WTB.L) has advanced 36% to 2,116 pence so far during 2012, making the share one of this year's best performers in the FTSE 100.

The U.K.'s largest hotel and restaurant group, whose chains include Premier Inn, Brewers Fayre, and Costa Coffee, has defied the wider economic gloom with a series of impressive statements.

During February, Whitbread published a fourth-quarter trading update that showed total sales had improved 10%, with sales at Costa Coffee jumping 24%. Costa's outstanding performance was driven in part by opening 359 new stores, 182 of which were outside the U.K.

In April, Whitbread's full-year figures showed sales up 11% to 1,778 million pounds and profits up 11% to 320 million pounds. Star of the show was Costa Coffee, with profits up 38%, while profits at Whitbread's hotels and restaurants grew by 4%. The dividend was lifted 15% to 51.25 pence per share.

Andy Harrison, Whitbread's chief exec, said at the time:

We remain on track to achieve our five-year growth milestones. In Premier Inn U.K., we have nearly 58,000 rooms in our existing estate and committed pipeline, taking us towards our 2016 milestone of 65,000 rooms. Last year we grew Costa's worldwide network by 18%, well on the way towards our five-year goal of doubling the size of Costa. This growth, combined with our strong focus on returns should create substantial shareholder value.

Then in June, Whitbread published a first-quarter update that showed total sales had improved by 14%. Costa Coffee once again showed excellent progress, with sales up 25%. Meanwhile, hotel and restaurant sales gained a decent 9%.

Whitbread's next update will occur on Thursday this week (Sept. 6) with a second-quarter trading update. The statement may provide further impressive news, though Whitbread did say in June that it faced "tougher comparatives against a strong result last year, together with the uncertain impact of this summer's major sporting events."

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