I am pleased to report strong performance for your Group for the six months ended 31st October 1999. Pre-tax profits increased by 64% to Euro 27.83 million (1998: Euro 16.96 million). Turnover for the period was Euro 109.5 million, an increase of 97% (1998: Euro 55.6 million). Year on year comparisons are influenced by Jurys acquisition of the Doyle Hotel Group on 26th May 1999. Earnings per share amounted to Euro 38.4c, an improvement of 21% (1998: Euro 31.7c). Excluding goodwill amortisation earnings per share amounted to Euro 41.1c an improvement of 30% (1998: Euro 31.7c).
The strong sales and profits performance was experienced throughout the Group across all hotels and inns. This has been helped by the buoyant market conditions in Ireland and Britain and to the progress being made in integrating the Jurys` and Doyle`s operations since the acquisition in May.
The integration process, which has been management`s key priority, has been proceeding very well. A number of working committees with members drawn from across the Group have made substantial progress under several headings including technology, personnel and training, marketing and central reservations. Indeed, the opening of a state of the art Central Reservations Office at the Berkeley Centre in Dublin has greatly enhanced the Group`s efficiency and capability.
The benefits of successful integration are already apparent. The Group is well positioned to optimise occupancy and to improve margins, particularly in cities where there are multiple locations. The scale of the Group has also led to overhead and purchasing economies. Finally, the Group now has a stronger platform for future growth and development.
The stg. £10 million bedroom extension to the Clifton Ford and the stg. £23 million re-construction of the Central Club in London are also progressing well - on budget and on schedule. Once this development work is completed in September 2000, Jurys Doyle will have 826 bedrooms in London. The Doyle Washington Hotel which opened in March 1999, has performed ahead of expectation. Jurys Manchester Inn has also performed very well since it opened in April 1999.
Trading for the months of November and December 1999 remains strong in all hotels and inns. The Group`s strategy continues to focus on organic and acquisitive growth in city locations, achieving a segmental spread and a balance of business between corporate, leisure and tourism.
The Directors have declared an interim dividend of Euro 6.03c per share (IR4.75p per share) an increase of 18.75% on the previous year`s interim dividend. The interim dividend is subject to Irish dividend withholding tax (DWT). Dividend warrants will be posted on 7th April 2000 to holders of ordinary shares at close of business on the record date of 18th February 2000. Copies of the interim statement will be posted to shareholders and will be available at the Group`s registered office.