• Accor announces buy-back

Accor pleased its investors last week by announcing that it is to buy back Eu500m of shares over the next 12 months.

Perhaps this was the catalyst to allow the detail on its future intentions to finally sink in, not least that it intends to sell-off 130 midscale hotels worth Eu1.3bn via a sale and leaseback.

This most recent asset restructuring, first mooted at the end of last year, follows the sale and leaseback of 128 properties worth Eu1bn, completed last year, and the 76 hotels worth Eu583m, sold this year. Both disposals were to SIIC (French REIT) Fonciere des Murs.

The latest tranche of hotels being brought to market are under the Novotel, Ibis and Mercure brands and are located in the UK, France, Belgium, Germnay, the Netherlands and central Europe.

Accor is also to sell and manage back 14 Sofitels worth Eu650m in Europe, half on leases with call options. With the disposal or franchise-back of a further 200 properties across its brands, it is expecting to generate Eu1.5bn in cash by 2008.

The company is sticking to its intention to spend Eu2.5bn on hotel investments (plus a further Eu500m on its services division) over the period to 2010 in what it describes as \an ambitious development plan\.

In key developing markets – it listed China, Brazil, India, Russia and Morocco – it intends to grow mostly via joint ventures.

An example is the listing of its Moroccan arm, Risma, this month in a move that raised $28m to fund 14 new hotels. Accor's stake in the company fell from 40% to 32% as a result of the listing. Risma currently operates 22 hotels with 3,000 rooms including seven Sofitels and 11 Ibis.

In China, Accor is targeting more than 180 hotels by the end of 2010, of which 100 will be Ibis. At the end of 2005, Accor had 26 hotels with 7,000 rooms across all its brands in the country.

Two-thirds of the projected total of 200,000 new rooms by 2010 will be in emerging markets. The return on capital employed target is 15%.

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