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Whitbread confident after solid results.

Leisure group Whitbread was upbeat about its prospects yesterday after seeing an "encouraging" sales performance across its hotels, restaurants and health clubs.

The group, tipped as a bidder for Scottish & Newcastle's retail estate and whose brands include Beefeater restaurants and Travel Inn budget hotels, reported solid like-for-like sales growth across its businesses with only its upmarket hotels chain, Marriott, posting a negative trend.

Along with rivals, Marriott, which has hotels near the Gateshead MetroCentre and at Gosforth Park racecourse, has suffered tough conditions in the four-star market in the wake of September 11 and, more recently, uncertainty over the situation in the Middle East.

But Marriott's like-for-like sales were down just 1.2pc over the 24 weeks to August 14, compared with much sharper declines earlier in the year when the prospect of war loomed.

Whitbread executive David Thomas said the four-star chain's sales had improved as the year progressed. Marriott's like-for-like sales were down by 4.2pc in March and April.

At the budget end of the market, Travel Inn put in a solid performance with like-for-like sales up 3.4pc but Mr Thomas said the difficult London market had held Travel Inn back.

Meanwhile, the group's reinvigorated Beefeater restaurants raced ahead with sales up 5.2pc on a like-for-like basis and its Brewers Fayre chain made steady progress with like-for-like sales up 3pc in the 24-week period.

But the best performance was from its health and fitness chain, David Lloyd Leisure, with like-for-like sales up 6.7pc over a 22-week period to August.

Mr Thomas said: "As a result of the resilience of our brands, the board remains confident about the prospects for the company."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 3, 2003
Words:277
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