News Column

InterContinental Hotels leads FTSE lower on disappointment over cash returns

February 18, 2014

Nick Fletcher,

InterContinental Hotels has reported upbeat results but its shares have fallen back on disappointment there was no news on any cash return to shareholders.

The company, whose brands include Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, has been selling off unwanted hotels such as one of its trophy assets, the Barclay in New York. Alongside the results it announced another disposal, that of the Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco for $120m.

Overall, profits rose 10% to $600m, ahead of forecasts, and the company said it was increasingly confident about the current year after strong demand in the US and an improvement in European trading. Fourth quarter trading in China also improved despite difficult economic conditions.

But its shares have dropped 86p to 20.21, making it the biggest faller in the FTSE 100. It has raised some $830m during the year from hotel sales, and some analysts had hoped for news that part of this would be given back to shareholders. Numis said:

IHG has reported solid 2013 preliminary results. There is no new news on the further return of cash to shareholders, but a further $120m disposal has been announced. We believe that the underlying outlook remains positive, but there are uncertainties about China, and IHG faces some short term headwinds given dilution from asset disposals and planned refurbishment. We suspect that consensus forecasts may drift back a little.

Overall, the FTSE 100 has slipped back ahead of UK inflation figures which could well show a dip below the Bank of England's 2% target. Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said:

If the annual inflation rate were to drop to 1.9%, and the general consensus would appear to be that it might, then market expectations of a future interest rate rise are likely to be kept on the back burner for a little while yet.

British Gas owner Centrica is also helping to drag the market lower. The company, which is under political pressure over energy prices charged to consumers, has lost 10.8p to 307.6p ahead of results on Thursday. Analysts at UBS have cut their rating from neutral to sell and their price target from 340p to 280p. Meanwhile Deutsche Bank has lowered its target from 315p to 300p.

Elsewhere BHP Billiton has added 16p to 19.28 following a 31% surge in first half profits to $7.76bn, compared to expectations of $6.9bn.

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Source: Guardian Web

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