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Whitbread to split Costa Coffee from group following activist pressure

Whitbread is to pursue a 'demerger of Costa'. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

Whitbread has bowed to pressure from an activist investor and announced that it will spin off Costa Coffee into a separately listed business.

The group, which also owns Premier Inn, said on Wednesday it will pursue a “demerger of Costa”, which will be completed within two years.

It comes after activist investor Elliott revealed it had become the firm’s largest shareholder last week with a stake of over 6%.

Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said: “Given the progress Whitbread is making, we are confident that both Premier Inn and Costa will soon be businesses of sufficient strength, scale and capability to enable them to thrive as independent companies.

“The board, therefore, believes that it is in the best long-term interests of Whitbread’s many stakeholders to separate Premier Inn and Costa, via a demerger of Costa.”

Whitbread new boss Credit: Whitbread new boss

Ms Brittain said the separation, which will see Costa have its own listing, will create “long-term value” for stakeholders and will allow both firms to focus on growth in the UK and internationally.

Whitbread will remain the owner and operator of Premier Inn.

Costa is thought to be worth between £2 billion and £3 billion on a standalone basis while Premier Inn is valued at up to £8 billion.

Shareholder Elliott, along with Sachem Head, had been pushing for a break-up of the group.

Shares in Whitbread were up 1% in morning trading.

Greg Johnson, analyst at Shore Capital, said: “The key news today is the long mooted demerger of Costa Coffee which is expected within to be completed within the next 24 months.

“A cleaner operation should enable greater operational focus and afford investors greater clarity on profit and cash generation.

“The ongoing heavy lifting, including revamping technology and repositioning of the estate, should begin to improve operating performance in the UK, whilst International remains the key catalyst for value creation.”

Alongside the announcement, Whitbread reported annual sales growth of 6.1% to £3.3 billion while pre-tax profits rose 6.4% to £548 million.

Annual figures also showed that Costa booked a 1.2% rise in like for like sales over the year, ahead of expectations.

Whitbread has a history dating back to 1742 and has over the years owned a bevvy of well-known brands such TGI Fridays, Pizza Hut and Marriott Hotels.

Costa, which Whitbread acquired in 1995 from founders Sergio and Bruno Costa, has more than 2,400 stores and is embarking on overseas expansion.