StockMarketWire.com - Whitbread booked a flat first-half profit after revenue growth was limited by weakness in consumer demand over the summer at its Premier Inn hotel chain.

The company also warned that its near-term profit growth may be lower than previous years as it invests more in the hotel chain amid a tough consumer environment.

Whitbread reiterated that it intended to return a 'significant majority' of the £3.9bn proceeds of the sale of the Costa coffee chain to Coca-Cola, though it still held out on revealing more details.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through August rose 0.2% on-year to £257m, as revenue rose 2.6% to £1.08bn. Underlying pre-tax profit rose 2.5% to £270m.

Whitbread declared an interim dividend of 32.7p per share, up 4% on-year.

'Although we have seen some weakness in consumer demand over the summer, we have made further encouraging progress with our efficiency programme, ensuring we remain on track with our plans for the current year,' chief executive chief executive Alison Brittain said.

Total UK accommodation sales grew 4.8%, while like-for-like accommodation sales growth of 0.2% was impacted by weaker consumer demand, the company said.

Bottom line profit at Costa, now reported as a discontinued operation, grew 3.5% to £47m.

'Given the recent economic and political environment, along with inflationary pressures in the consumer sector, there is a degree of caution on demand,' the company said.

'The combination of our commitment to the investment programme and the current UK consumer environment naturally means our near-term profit growth may be lower than in previous years.'

'However, Whitbread is confident that the ongoing efficiency programme can continue to offset a significant proportion of inflation over the short to medium term.'

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