InterContinental Hotels share price falls 3% as activist investor pushes for sale

The hotel group may not be sleeping soundly at the moment, as US fund Marcato Capital looks to cash in.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 05 Aug 2014

InterContinental Hotels (IHG) probably didn’t sleep all that soundly last night, after activist investor Marcato Capital suddenly started pressuring it to sell itself just a day ahead of a not-particularly-great set of results.

The US fund announced yesterday it had hired M&A adviser Houlihan Lokey to conduct a ‘full strategic review for enhancing shareholder value’. It took a 4% stake in IHG in May, around the same time the company spurned a $10bn (£5.9bn) offer from a US company rumoured to be Starwood Hotels.

It was all a bit distracting for the hotel group, throwing the spotlight on its poor first-half results rather than diverting away from them. Operating profit in the first half of this year was down 8% to $310m, with revenues slipping 3% to $908m as recent disposals, damages and currency swings took their toll.

Underlying profits were up 6%, but investors weren’t convinced by the attempt at clever accounting. Shares were down more than 3% to 2,290p in mid-morning trading, having fallen pretty steadily since their record high of 2,475p on July 24th.

IHG tried its best to seem unconcerned by the whole kerfuffle. ‘We don’t have any comment on what our shareholders are doing,’ chief financial officer Paul Edgecliffe-Johnson told the FT.

But it’s clearly trying to win over investors of the non-activist ilk. After a one-off giveaway of $750m in June, it increased its interim divided 9% to 25 cents per share. Shareholders don’t seem placated – perhaps not surprising given net debt was already up almost 20% year-on-year to $1bn before the latest windfall.

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