June 19, 2012 / 6:48 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Whitbread sales boosted by Costa Coffee growth

* Costa Coffee Q1 like-for-like sales up 8.4 pct

* Premier Inn Q1 like-for-like sales up 4.3 pct

* Unsure on the impact of the London Games

LONDON, June 19 (Reuters) - British leisure group Whitbread reported solid growth in first-quarter sales, boosted by a strong performance from its coffee shop chain Costa Coffee, and said it was unsure if it would benefit from the upcoming Olympic games in London.

Whitbread, which also owns budget hotel chain Premier Inn, on Tuesday said underlying sales rose 4.5 percent in the 13 weeks to May 31, helped by an 8.4 percent rise in like-for-like sales at Costa and a 4.3 percent jump at Premier Inn, which it plans to expand.

“Our plans for profitable growth are well established, supported by our strong balance sheet, and we plan to open 4,200 Premier Inn rooms, eight joint site restaurants and 350 new Costa stores this financial year, creating an additional 3,500 UK jobs,” said chief executive Andy Harrison.

“For the second quarter we face tougher comparatives against a strong result last year, together with the uncertain impact of this summer’s major sporting events.”

Costa is already Britain’s biggest coffee shop brand with almost 1,400 shops and has a further 800 units in 25 overseas markets, including China and India.

The company said Costa opened 35 new UK stores in the quarter and 35 new stores in Asia, including 22 in China where it now has 186 stores.

Like-for-like sales at Premier Inn grew by 3 percent in the qaurter with occupancy up 1.3 percentage points to 76.2 percent.

In April, Whitbread posted a rise in full-year profit and said Premier Inn had enjoyed sales growth since the start of the new financial year, recovering from a dip over Christmas and in the early part of 2012.

Shares in Whitbread, which have risen 18 percent in 2012, closed at 1,849 pence on Tuesday, valuing the group at around 3.2 billion pounds ($5.01 billion).

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