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UPDATE 2-Premier Inn-owner Whitbread sees slowdown as new virus wave grips Europe

* H1 pretax loss of 724.7 mln pounds vs profit of 219.9 mln pounds

* Company says Premier Inn performing ahead of market

* Expands hotel business further in Germany (Adds CEO comments, analyst quote, details on outlook)

Oct 27 (Reuters) - Whitbread said on Tuesday business had slowed this month after the government asked people to work from home and imposed new regional lockdowns, adding to pressures after the Premier-Inn owner posted a hefty first-half loss.

Hopes of a sustained recovery in the hospitality industry following the easing of coronavirus restrictions in July have faded since the UK government reimposed curbs last month to tackle a new wave of infections.

In response, Whitbread plans to cut up to 6,000 jobs at its hotels and restaurants, it said last month.

Premier Inn UK’s occupancy level increased to 58% in September from 51% in August, but has dropped back to around 50% so far in October, Chief Executive Alison Brittain said on a call with the media.

Tighter restrictions to try to curb the spread of the cornavirus could lead to a further decline in November and December, she added.

The company has introduced flexible options allowing customers to cancel or amend bookings without extra costs.

Whitbread said that while it has been performing ahead of the market, it is seeing signs of COVID-induced distress in a competitive sector for independent and budget hotel operators.

It signed a deal for up to 15 hotels in Germany, with the total investment expected to be up to 50 million euros ($59 million) as it further expands there.

The owner of the Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Bar + Block chains also said it expects subdued demand at its restaurants, hurt by the new curbs, low consumer confidence and the end of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme.

Pretax loss, including an impairment charge, was 724.7 million pounds ($944.50 million) in the first half of its financial year, compared with a pretax profit of 219.9 million pounds a year ago. ($1 = 0.8461 euros) (Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Keith Weir)

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