Fitness programme

What’s happened?

It has been quite a year for Christopher Rogers, finance director at
Whitbread plc, the hotel, restaurant and fitness club operator that announces
its preliminary results on Tuesday next week.

He joined the company just under a year ago from the Woolworths Group, taking
over from David Richardson, and since then has been busy with a number of
disposals and acquisitions, including the sale of its stake in Britvic, as well
as dealing with a large pensions deficit.And the company has recently been in
the public eye as a potential bidder for Next Generation, the fitness club group
owned by former tennis star David Lloyd.

During the past year, Whitbread has been the first to admit it has faced a
difficult trading environment, particularly in its pubs and restaurants
division. This includes such brands as Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays. But it has
also gone through a radical restructuring programme which has seen it acquire
Premier Lodge hotels and dispose of its Marriott assets. It even sold its iconic
Brewery site in Chiswell Street in the heart of the City of London.

It also recently added seven Holiday Inn hotels to its portfolio, which it
will convert into Premier Travel Inns, the budget hotel line that was judged the
most improved brand in a recent BDRC British Hotel Guest survey. This move fits
in with the company’s aggressive expansion of the Premier Travel Inn chain – the
company aims to increase bedrooms in the chain by 50% in the next five years.

What’s next?

The move on Next Generation has created the most interest for finance
director Rogers and his chief executive Alan Parker at the moment, though the
company itself has been subject to bid speculation.The company already owns
David Lloyd Leisure, the UK’s largest tennis club operator.

Whitbread had been tipped as the front runner to buy the chain, which
includes the infamous Harbour Club, one time haunt of the late Diana, Princess
of Wales.But Rogers and his team, who are understood to have offered £195m for
the chain, will have faced stiff competition from rival bidders, and as
Accountancy Age went to print it is believed property group London
& Regional had pipped Whitbread to the post.

Half full or half empty?

Whitbread will announce its full year results on 25 April. In earlier
statements it said: ‘The business has performed as expected and although the
trading environment remains competitive we anticipate the outturn for the year
will be in line with our expectations.’

Its share price has risen 20% this year as a result of talk that it might
face a private equity bid, but this eased after Morgan Stanley said the shares
had reached a level where external bidders were priced out.

Related reading