May 14, 2002|
ITC Hotels: Neglected child
The hospitality sector experienced one of its worst years in FY02. The slowdown, which took shape in 4QFY01 was beginning to result in lower business travel, negatively impacting the sector in early FY02. The real hit came from the events of September 11, which put brakes on global economic activity leading to drying up of business as well as leisure travel.
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Making matters worse, subsequent to the attacks on WTC, the country encountered increased terrorist activity, which further vitiated the travel environment. Aggravating the situation was the communal turmoil in Ayodhya and Gujarat. The industry did not get any chance to salvage a respectable performance in FY02. Increased competition from international hospitality chains exerted further pressure on operations of existing companies. Consequently, the industry offered heavy discounts through the year to lift occupancy rates. Much of these challenges are reflected in the topline performance of ITC Hotels.
Operating profits have been hit hard with a decline in sales and operating margins. As mentioned, the company is likely to have experienced pressure on occupancy rates and room tariffs leading to lower business volumes and realisations. Lower volumes seem to have reflected on key expenses, which have declined, but not commensurately. Staff costs have proved to be most sticky rising 10% during the fiscal. Heavy discounts are likely to have taken a toll on margins.
Despite a challenging year, the company has managed to control interest costs, which could be due to lower working capital requirement. Extraordinary items in FY01 pertain to sale of asset and voluntary retirement costs. VRS expenses are to be written over five years. The results do not mention the amount written off in the current year.
Over the past year, the scrip has steadily declined from its highs and is currently quoting at Rs 51. The 52-week high/low is Rs 74 / Rs 41. Recent expansions in hospitality, namely ITC - Grand Maratha, Mumbai, have been undertaken by the parent company, ITC. Consequently, concerns have cropped up on expansion plans and positioning of the subsidiary.
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