The price of shares in FTSE 100 hospitality business Whitbread (LON:WTB) increased by 5.95% to 3,242p (as of 15:00 GMT) as sales saw some recovery during the quarter ended 26th November. While the nine months of the year to that date were still down by 70.2%, the 13 week period saw a slightly more modest drop of 55%. However, tightened restrictions in the UK and Germany for December led to this recovering stalling during the Christmas period.
CEO Alison Brittain commented: “Since the start of the COVID crisis, we have responded quickly and robustly to the changing restrictions and have learnt to rapidly adapt our operations as required. This is testament to the efforts of our colleagues who continue to work tirelessly to maintain our very high operating standards, customer service and high levels of health and safety. This response has enabled us to continue to deliver strong market share gains in the UK, demonstrating the benefits of our strong brand, direct distribution, and our unique operating model.
“We expect the current travel restrictions in the UK and Germany to remain until at the very least the end of our financial year. With the vaccination programme underway, we look forward to the potential gradual relaxation of restrictions from the Spring, business and leisure confidence returning, and our market recovering over the rest of the year.
“We are well placed to continue to outperform the increasingly constrained budget branded and independent competitor sets, by leveraging the benefits of our unique operating model. We expect to see increasing opportunities to develop in both the UK and Germany and are pleased to have accelerated our growth in Germany with the recent acquisition of 13 hotels, taking the open and committed pipeline to 68 hotels, a major step on our path to achieving a nation-wide footprint with representation in most major towns and cities.
“We continue to protect our liquidity through the careful management of our cash position, and to take actions to ensure that we exit the crisis as a leaner, stronger and more resilient business. Our strong balance sheet also provides the opportunity to take full advantage of the enhanced structural opportunities that we are already seeing in the market“.