Hotels surge fails to buoy up London market

Costa Coffee and Premier Inn owner Whitbread unveiled a hike in half-year profits but warned it will face up to an extra £20 million a year in staff costs from the new national living wage. The group, which is one of the UK's biggest employers with around 48,000 staff, said it had already increased pay for baristas in its Costa Coffee chain by around 10 per cent this month to take pay above the incoming national living wage PICTURE: Joe Giddens/PA

PREMIER Inn owner Whitbread and InterContinental Hotels saw their shares surge on buoyant sales, but further falls for commodity stocks held back the London market.

Whitbread, which also owns Costa Coffee and restaurant brands including Brewers Fayre, saw shares lift more than 3 per cent after a better-than-expected 13.8 per cent hike in half-year profits to £291.3 million.

Holiday Inn parent InterContinental also cheered the market with recent solid trading, although the FTSE 100 Index struggled to make headway closing 7.2 points lower at 6345.1, as miners and oil firms lost more ground following Monday's weak China growth figures.

Germany's DAX was slightly down, and France's Cac 40 was down 0.6 per cent. In New York the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat in early trading.

With little economic data around yesterday the pound was slightly up against the US dollar at just under 1.55, and slightly down against the euro at 1.36.

Silver miner Fresnillo was 0.5p lower at 734p, while BP and Royal Dutch Shell dropped 0.7p to 376.6p and 6.5p to 1793p respectively.

Commodity stocks have been hit hard after data yesterday showed China's economic growth in the third quarter slumped to a six-year low, while factory output in the world's second largest economy in September was below forecasts.

Among gainers, Whitbread's profits leap and news of a dividend increase offset confirmation that the new national living wage will cost the group between £15m and £20m a year, with a £5m hit over its second half after recent pay rises in its Costa chain.

InterContinental Hotels was the strongest riser in the top flight up 7 per cent, or 160p to 2471p, after its third quarter update showed good growth in revenue per room.

Tesco was one of the biggest fallers, with shares down 4.5p to 189.1p after the supermarket's sales fell 1.7 per cent in the 12 weeks to October, according to Kantar Worldpanel research.

Sainsbury's sales were the only riser out of the big four supermarket players, lifting 1.1 per cent over the same period. However, shares slipped 2p at 265.6p.

Elsewhere, online fashion firm ASOS jumped more than 8 per cent, or 246p to 3174p, after it said its recovery was on track as it held profits firm thanks to surging sales in the wake of a torrid 2014.

New chief executive Nick Beighton, who took over from founder Nick Robertson last month, cheered "encouraging progress" as full-year profits edged one per cent higher to £47.5m. The news comes after a string of profit warnings last year.

Still out of the top flight, engineering firm Aveva is up almost 4 per cent, or 74p, to 2082p after Berenberg lifted its rating to "buy" from "hold" following its agreed tie-up with Schneider Electric announced back in July.

The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Intercontinental Hotels Group up 160p at 2471p, Inmarsat up 32.5p at 955.5p, Whitbread up 157p at 4882p and Glencore up 3.5p and 113.5p.

The biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 Index were AstraZeneca down 132p at 4024.5p, Tesco down 4.5p at 189.1p, International Airlines Group 11.5p at 592p and Hikma Pharmaceuticals down 28p at 2077p.


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