StockMarketWire.com - Premier Inn hotel chain owner Whitbread posted an 7.1% fall in first-half profit as political uncertainty in the UK weighed on domestic travel demand.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through September fell to £220m, down from £237m on-year.

The numbers excluded contributions from the Costa coffee chain in the previous corresponding period, which was sold to Coca-Cola.

Adjusted revenue edged back 0.1% to £1.08bn, while adjusted pre-tax profit fell 4.1% to £236m.

UK accommodation sales declined 0.6% and like-for-like accommodation sales declined 3.6%, impacted by continued weak regional market conditions.

Whitbread kept its interim dividend steady at 32.7p per share.

The company said the challenging UK operating environment had continued into the third quarter of its financial year.

In the 2020 financial year, it said it expected add about 5,000 new rooms and experience a net margin headwind of around £45m.

'We have delivered a resilient first-half profit performance despite challenging market conditions in the UK,' chief executive Alison Brittain said.

'Shorter-term trading conditions in the UK regional market have been difficult, particularly in the business segment where we have a higher proportion of our revenue, whilst trading in London remained strong.'

'Whilst the near-term market conditions in the UK remain uncertain, we have confidence in the long-term structural opportunities available in the domestic budget travel markets in the UK and Germany.'

'Following successful completion of our return of surplus capital programme, we still have a strong balance sheet, providing support for ongoing disciplined deployment of capital, which will deliver growth over the longer term.'

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