• Accor confident on its course

Accor net profit more than doubled in the first half as receipts from the sale of hotel property and its travel agency boosted the figures.

But more importantly operating profit was up 34% to Eu379m giving the company the confidence to announce a Eu500m share buy-back.

The company appeared to be in bullish mood as it updated investors on its strategic plan. There were five key parts to this: expansion of the hotels business; the launch of three hotel brands; further divestments of non-strategic businesses; more property disposals; and optimising the balance sheet.

During the first half, 13,825 rooms were opened, which is on course for the 200,000 to be opened in the period 2006 to 2010. The pipeline stood at 83,000 at the end of August.

The brand launches include the repositioning of Sofitel to take place in October; the revival of the Pullman name to create a new upscale brand; and the launch of the All Seasons economy brand for non-standardised hotels.

The All Seasons name is to appear on 14 existing hotels by June 2008 and so far 31 franchise deals have been struck. The potential is for 10,000 rooms by 2010, including rebranding existing Accor hotels and new franchise contracts.

Among the business disposals was August’s Eu135m sale of an Italian contract caterer, expected to complete by October.

Since 2005 to the end of June this year, Accor has realised more than Eu3.2bn via the sale of 459 hotels. Another Eu1.9bn is to be raised by the sale of 350 hotels by the end of next year and another 550 hotels will also see their current ownership structure revisited by the end of 2009.

The company refinanced its debt with a new Eu2bn line of credit in July. It is to buy back Eu500m following buybacks of Eu500m in 2006 and Eu700m in the first eight months of this year.

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