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Wed 28th Feb 2018 - Update: SSP shareholder revolt, Whitbread acquisition, Greggs
SSP shareholders in revolt over chairman and remuneration: The board added: “Specifically, the board and the Management team believe that Mr Sørensen’s knowledge of the business and extensive experience brings many benefits to the group and that his time availability and attention have been without question and have not been adversely impacted by his other board appointments.” But the statement said that Sorensen will review his portfolio over the coming period. The company also faced opposition to its remuneration policy, as nearly 23% of votes were cast against. The board responded by saying it would engage with shareholders on the issue. The revolt means the company will be named in a new register which records significant shareholder rebellions against proposals. SSP Group faced shareholder unrest at its annual general meeting yesterday, as almost a third of investors rebelled against its chairman. Chairman Vagn Sørensen had been criticised by an investor advice service for his multiple roles. Yesterday, 32.1% of votes cast opposed his re-election. The board said it noted shareholders’ concerns over his range of external appointments, but was “satisfied that Vagn Sørensen has sufficient capacity to meet his commitments to the SSP Group”. 

Whitbread buys portfolio of 19 hotels in Germany: Whitbread has announced the acquisition of a portfolio of 19 hotels in Germany, from Foremost Hospitality Group GmbH, for an undisclosed sum. This acquisition will give Premier Inn substantial presence in the German hotel market, increasing the total committed network pipeline to 31 hotels with over 5,700 rooms across 15 key cities that are all expected to be open by the end of 2020. This acquisition is an important step in accelerating Whitbread’s existing international strategy and in replicating Premier Inn UK’s success and network scale in this key strategic market. Whitbread will continue to explore options to further accelerate growth in Germany, through a mix of freehold property developments, leasehold sites and acquisitions of small existing hotel portfolios. Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread, said: “One of our three key strategic priorities is to focus on building strong and sustainable growth in key international markets. Today’s announcement marks the next stage in our ambitious growth plan for the Premier Inn brand in Germany. We believe Germany has many of the structural growth drivers that have underpinned the success of Premier Inn in the UK and that Germany is a market that will deliver strong returns in the future. This acquisition mirrors the strategic opportunity that we identified with Costa in China, where we recently bought out Costa’s South China joint venture partner. Whitbread’s strong businesses still have considerable growth opportunities in the UK, however, these two transactions and our continued investment in these new markets, gives us confidence in our ability to build international businesses of scale in both Germany and China, that will underpin our growth for decades to come.” The acquisition in Germany includes 13 leasehold hotels (comprising 2,140 rooms), which are already open and trading, and six committed pipeline leasehold hotels (comprising around 970 rooms), the majority of which will open over the next two years. The hotels are all in proven prime locations, are of high quality and can be readily rebranded to Premier Inn. The transaction and consideration are conditional upon obtaining consent from landlords to rebrand the hotels and upon the termination of the franchise agreements with the current franchisor. This could take up to two years for the 13 trading hotels. The hotels being acquired will continue trading under their current brand, in advance of being refurbished in to the Premier Inn brand. The acquisition is expected to be earnings enhancing the year after completion. Premier Inn currently has one hotel open in Frankfurt and a further eleven hotels in its committed pipeline across key cities in Germany, having recently secured an additional organic development in Munich for 216 bedrooms. The German hotel market is 35% larger than the UK and similar to the UK ten years ago, it is experiencing a structural shift from independent hotels to branded hotels. The branded budget hotel sector is the fastest beneficiary of this shift, but still only represents a 6% market share, compared to 24% in the UK. With only moderate growth expected from other brands, Premier Inn’s strong quality and value credentials provide a long-term opportunity to establish a major hotel brand and develop a successful business of scale in this attractive market.
Greggs eyes estate size over 2,000 stores: Greggs will open a record number of new shops in 2018 and plans to extend its overall target beyond the 2,000 originally projected, it said yesterday. “We’ve pressed the accelerator on shop openings,” chief executive Roger Whiteside told Reuters. Greggs, based in Newcastle in northern England, opened a net 90 new stores in 2017, taking its total to 1,854. It plans to open 110 to 130 in 2018. “That will bring us very close to the 2,000 mark. At that point, we’ll declare another target,” Whiteside said. “Even that won’t be the end of the journey.” Costa Coffee and Subway,already trade from over 2,000 British stores, he noted. “We know that we can trade well near all of them, so if they can keep going we can,” he said. “We’re a value brand, so if people are tight for money then Greggs is appealing in those circumstances, but it’s not as good as when people have money,” Whiteside said.

Liverpool moots hotel bed tax: Liverpool should seek to pilot a hotel bed tax to support culture and tourism in the city, a report has recommended. MPs and councillors in Liverpool are being urged to lobby the government for legislation allowing local levies. The city could be a “test bed for the rest of the country”, Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram said. Trade body UKHospitality said it opposed any new tax but some hoteliers say they would support a small charge. “There’s less funding out there coming from government and from Europe for obvious reasons so we need to have that fighting fund to allow us to compete on a worldwide stage,” said Enda Rylands from the Liverpool Hospitality Association. Tony Sophoclides, from UKHospitality, said a levy would hit lower and middle income tourists the most and he “would prefer for this just not to be considered”. “We have 20% VAT on tourism here – in France, Italy and Spain it’s 10% so I think there’s a competitiveness there that we need to respect,” he said. Rotheram said: “If the government are looking for a pilot area it could be the Liverpool City Region whose tourist industry is literally booming at the moment.” He said the idea was in the “early stages of scrutiny” but “we need to discuss with the government... to see whether we can be a test-bed for the rest of the country”. The city council scrutiny committee report said hotels, retail and restaurants received the benefits of culture but were not obligated to fund it. Liverpool should support other cities such as Birmingham, which is also lobbying for local levies to support the Commonwealth Games in 2022, the report added. The report also says the waterfront and marina should be better utilised and more should be done to improve Mathew Street.

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