Future rosy for 2008, says Balfour-Lynn

Despite credit crunch, MWB’s shares jump 4% amid ‘excellent’ trading.

Marylebone Warwick Balfour said its outlook for 2008 was ‘extremely positive’, despite the current credit crunch and uncertainty over consumer spending.

The hotel, serviced offices and retail group’s shares jumped more than 4% to 188p last Thursday after it issued an upbeat trading statement in advance of the publication of its annual results in early March.

Trading in the Malmaison hotel division, the largest of MWB’s three businesses, in 2007 had been ‘excellent’, the group said.

‘All internal EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation] and cashflow targets for the year, which were significantly higher than those for the year to December 2006, were met,’ it added. ‘Occupancy for the year was maintained at 79% and the average room rate for the year was up 8% at £115. The directors are confident that trading in 2008 will be strong.’

Five new Malmaison hotels opened during the year in Liverpool, Reading, Cheltenham, Cambridge and York, increasing the total number to 22. A further four hotels in Poole, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are under construction or renovation and are due to open this year. In addition, an existing hotel in St Andrews in Scotland has been bought this year for conversion into a Hotel du Vin and a further three sites are in advanced stages of negotiation, including in Chester and Canterbury.

Trading at MWB Business Exchange, the company’s AIM-listed serviced office subsidiary ‘has been, and continues to be, very strong’, MWB said. ‘The year finished with continuing high occupancy levels of 90%, up from 78% at December 2006 and 88% at June 2007.’

By James Whitmore, Property Week, 18/01/08

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