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LONDON, Feb 19 AFP

February 19 2013, 9:51PM

InterContinental Hotels Group says its annual profits have jumped by almost a fifth, aided by strong expansion in China and the United States.

Earnings after taxation rallied 18.2 per cent to $US544 million ($A530.96 million) in 2012, compared with $US460 million ($A448.98 million) in 2011, IHG said in a results statement on Tuesday.

The company - the world's largest hotels operator by number of rooms - owns the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn chains. It said revenues grew by 4 per cent to $US1.835 billion.

The London-listed company added that it had begun the sale process for InterContinental London Park Lane and would continue with the sale of the New York Barclay.

The group had already signalled in August that it would seek to return $US1 billion to shareholders as a result of its ongoing strategy of selling key assets.

InterContinental also raised its annual shareholder dividend by 16 per cent to 64 cents per share on Tuesday.

"IHG's proven strategy and resilient business model position us for further good performance in 2013, despite the challenging economic environment," said CEO Richard Solomons.

"The 16-per cent increase in our dividend demonstrates the confidence we have in our ability to deliver sustained high quality growth."

InterContinental added that global revenue per available room (RevPAR) - a key industry measure - rose by 5.2 per cent last year, led by 6.3 per cent growth in the United States and 5.4 per cent growth in Greater China.

RevPAR is calculated by multiplying a hotel's average daily room rate by its occupancy rate.

IHG franchises, leases, manages or owns more than 675,000 rooms in more than 4,600 hotels across the world, with operations in almost 100 countries and territories.