It is no surprise that hotel chains haven’t been doing well recently. When the owner of Premier Inn, Whitbread (LSE: WTB), said this month it would be issuing a £1bn rights issue, it was natural to assume this is to help a poor financial position. But that is only part of the story.
According to the company, revenue from accommodation, bars, and beverages has fallen 99%. Not a surprise when they have no guests and almost all their hotels are closed. The company also warned that its financials could be “materially loss-making” for the year. Again, no great shock.
CEO Alison Brittain said in a statement that though the £1bn rights issue would help liquidity and the company’s cash flow, it is also aimed at boosting Whitbread’s ability to take advantage of cheap investment opportunities.
This kind of bargain hunting is a strategy I am a fan of – if the company can afford it. Whitbread estimates its costs will be about £600m in the coming six months, so at least some of the capital raised will be used to offset that.
It is also still unknown really how the climate will change, and how quickly, after lockdown. It seems unlikely that everyone will be rushing back to stay in Premier Inns the moment restrictions are lifted.
Whitbread was also quick to take advantage of various government schemes aimed at helping companies during lockdown. It has about £1.5bn of undrawn credit and has secured waivers on its debt covenants until 2022.
Whitbread has been expanding extensively in Germany where it sees “very significant” opportunities. The capital raised by the rights issue could be put to good use.
That said, the investment case for Whitbread is not clear-cut. For one, the company reduced its dividend, which was a sensible move, but does remove its benefit as an income investment.
In addition, we really don’t know what the landscape will look like for hotels and travel as we come out of lockdown. It is possible that demand for business travel, which is a big part of Premier Inn’s business, will be much lower.
On the other hand, if a recession leads to people cutting costs, then Whitbread’s budget hotels may actually benefit. UK holidays and cheap accommodation are two areas that always benefit when people have less money.
I have no doubt the market will eventually pick up again, and Whitbread may be in prime position to benefit. As of now though, my greatest concern is we don’t really know when this will be.
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Karl has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.