- Trading improved from the second quarter
- Higher-than-expected cost inflation forecast for this year
Whitbread (WTB) demonstrated that it is making solid headway on its path to recovery, in a financial year still impacted by lockdown closures. A return to statutory profit was greeted cheerily by the market, with the shares up by 4 per cent. Those investors who enjoy tucking into a meal at one of the company’s Premier Inn hotels can now also get their teeth stuck into a reinstated dividend.
Matt Britzman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that the return of the dividend “sends a clear message to markets that sentiment is vastly improved”.
With overnight stays only permitted from May 2021, the first quarter of FY 2022 was a struggle. But from that point on, occupancy rose – the rate soared by 3,890 basis points to 68.3 per cent for the year for UK Premier Inns. This took UK revenue up 189 per cent to £1.7bn in statutory sales, but this was still a drop of almost a fifth against the pre-pandemic period.
Trading after the year-end was promising for accommodation – for the 7 weeks to 21 April, UK Premier Inn results were 30 per cent ahead of the (pre-Covid) 2020 financial year. But food and beverage sales at the hotel brand lagged 5 per cent behind the same metric.
Peel Hunt analysts noted of the post-period results that “some of the strong performance may reflect the release of pent-up demand and that consumer confidence is weakening”.
That is an appropriate point to make. But given that the shares currently look a little expensive – the broker has them trading on 36 times forward 2023 earnings, which is around the five-year consensus average – and with higher cost inflation of 8-9 per cent now expected by management for this year, we are sticking with our hold recommendation for the time being.
Last IC view: Hold, 3,242p, 26 Oct 2021
|ORD PRICE:||2,858p||MARKET VALUE:||£5.77bn|
|TOUCH:||2,8257p-2,859p||12-MONTH HIGH:||3,467p||LOW: 2,384p|
|DIVIDEND YIELD:||1.2%||PE RATIO:||135|
|NET ASSET VALUE:||2,039p||NET DEBT:||86%|
|Year to 03 Mar||Turnover (£bn)||Pre-tax profit (£bn)||Earnings per share (p)||Dividend per share (p)|