Coffee chain Costa boosts Q3 sales at Whitbread

UK hotel and restaurant group Whitbread plc (LSE:WTB) announced today an increase of 3.3% in like-for-like sales for the third quarter of 2012, boosted by strong performance at its coffee chain Costa, which is expanding its operations.

Sales at Costa outlets open more than a year grew by 7.1% in the 13 weeks to the end of November, with total sales up 25.5%. Whitbread said that it plans to open 330 net new Costa stores worldwide and around 1,300 Costa Express units over the full year.

The group, which also operates hotels and restaurants across the UK, said that its total like-for-like sales increased in all areas of the business during the third quarter. Overall, growth was slower than the 4.3% rise in underlying sales seen in the first half but the first six months of the financial year benefited from Britain’s wet weather and the London Olympic Games, Reuters reported.

In the Premier Inn budget hotel business like-for-like sales were up 2.5% in the third quarter and the company announced that it has opened its 50,000th room in the UK.

The restaurant arm outperformed the market with sales growth of 1.9%, according to the company. This rise was predominantly driven by an increase in spend per head. Whitbread’s restaurant brands include Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Taybarns.

Whitbread chief executive Andy Harrison commented that the economic environment remains challenging but said that the company is on track to deliver full-year results in line with expectations.

Shares in Whitbread were up 4.7% in early deals, the Telegraph reported.

Under its five-year growth plan through to 2015-16 Whitbread is aiming to increase the number of Premier Inn UK rooms to at least 65,000, to add 80-100 new restaurants and to nearly double the size of the Costa business, with global system sales of GBP1.3bn and 3,500 stores worldwide.

UK’s Pace in early talks to acquire Google’s Motorola Home unit

UK set-top boxes manufacturer Pace Plc (LON:PIC) confirmed it had made an indicative, non-binding proposal and was currently in preliminary talks over a potential deal to buy Google Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola Home business unit.

The statement was issued in response to media speculation over an offer from Pace.

The share of the UK suitor were suspended from trading until sufficient information is provided on a potential transaction, or an announcement is made that negotiations ended, the buyer said.

A deal, if reached, would be carried out as a reverse takeover, but there is no guarantee that the ongoing talks would lead to an agreement, Pace explained. Its board would only pursue a transaction if it served the best interest of shareholders, it added.

Reuters cited Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser as saying that, based on how the deal is structured, Google could get a price in the range of billions of dollars for the Motorola Home business. Meanwhile, an earlier report by Bloomberg quoting an unnamed source, said Google was seeking USD2bn (EUR1.5bn) for the unit.

The target business delivered revenues of USD797m and an operating result of USD25m in the third quarter, as Google’s financial results show. It makes set-top boxes for digital and Internet protocol (IP) video, satellite and terrestrial broadcast networks and Internet protocol television (IPTV) distribution systems, broadband access network infrastructure platforms, as well as software solutions for cable TV and telecommunication service providers.

The web search giant bought it as part of its USD12.5bn purchase in May of Motorola Mobility.

HSBC sells stake in Asian JV with Global Payments for $242m

US payment processing services provider Global Payments Inc (NYSE:GPN) has executed an agreement that will give it full ownership of the Asian-Pacific joint venture established in partnership with The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC).

HSBC, a subsidiary of UK-based banking giant HSBC Holdings plc (LON:HSBA), will receive USD242m (EUR187m) for its 44% stake in Global Payments Asia Pacific Limited.

The two companies teamed up in 2006, creating a joint business to provide regional merchants with payment processing services. Global Payments will remain a preferred strategic partner to HSBC in the Asia-Pacific as the companies continue to cooperate across 11 markets in the area of card acquiring services.

Global Payments expects the acquisition to have a favourable impact on its 2013 financial results and its guidance for the year reflects the anticipated effect, the group said.