March 20, 2012 / 7:53 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 2-Regus ready to invest as profit rises

* Year revenue up 12 pct to 1.16 billion pounds

* Operating profit up 112 pct to 50.6 mln pounds

* Year dividend 2.9 pence

* Trading in line; Expects to open 200 new locations in 2012

* Targets expansion at airports, motorways, train stations

* Shares down 6 percent

By Neil Maidment

LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - Regus more than doubled operating profit in 2011 as cash-strapped firms chose the flexible office space supplier over fixed cost premises, and said it would open another 200 locations this year to fuel further growth.

Regus offers ready-to-use offices for rentals as short as half a day in 94 countries. It said on Tuesday operating profit for 2011 doubled to 50.6 million pounds ($80 million), compared with a forecast for 49.8 million in a Reuters poll.

Pretax profit nearly doubled to 45.5 million pounds.

Revenue for the year rose 12 percent to 1.16 billion pounds, helped by an 8 percent rise in occupancy levels in its core mature business - centres not opened in the current or past financial year - where Regus upped its marketing spend and discounted prices to attract new customers.

“While we remain longer-terms fans of Regus as a macroeconomic play on continued U.S. economic recovery and continued emerging market growth, with the shares up almost 40 percent in the last three months we may see short-term profit-taking,” analysts at Jefferies wrote in a research note.

Despite increasing its full-year dividend by 12 percent to 2.9 pence, the firm were the biggest FTSE 250 faller at 0936 GMT. Shares dropped 6 percent to 105.9 pence, having opened the day 50 percent higher than six months ago.

The group said it had benefited from both big and small companies looking to reduce costs while economic conditions remained uncertain, as well as the rise of the worker on the move, armed with new mobile and wireless technology.

“Very large companies are doing it in a very major ways,” Chief Executive Mark Dixon told Reuters. “You have got companies outsourcing in thousands of people. Companies like Yellow Pages and 7/11 in the United States,” he said, adding it can reduce a large company’s costs by 80 percent.

Regus, whose customers include Google, GlaxoSmithKline and Nokia, said it expected to open at least 200 new locations in 2012, up from 139 last year, as it edges towards a target of 2,000 locations by 2014. Regus currently has around 1,200.

“The group continues to see significant opportunities in the structural move toward flexible work,” Regus said.

It expects to be in 100 countries by the end of 2012, including Cambodia, Nepal and Papa New Guinea. New offices would appear in fast developing countries like Brazil, China and India, but also in Europe, including Greece.

The group, which rents business lounges and meeting rooms to clients on the move in cities, are also expanding into train stations and motorway services. It recently signed deals with French and Dutch train operators to have workspaces at their stations, and a trial program with Shell to have business lounges at petrol station forecourts on motorways.

“We are looking at roadside, airports, railways, and also supporting people at home with neighborhood centres. We open our first one this year in the Netherlands,” Dixon said.

Dixon formed Regus in 1989 when he noticed how many business people were working from hotels and cafes while he stopped over in Brussels.

Regus grew mature revenues across all of its regions, including a 2.3 percent rise in its core Americas business.

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