IHG boss Richard Solomons has high hopes for 2014
Call Richard Solomons and the InterContinental Hotels Group predictable and you won?t hear much argument. But reliable, the hotels chief executive points out, does not mean dull.
Solomons has been on the board of IHG for almost 14 years, spending the past two and a half years in the head role. He has become the Steady Eddy of the FTSE 100.
IHG was formerly part of Six Continents, the hospitality giant that emerged from the Bass brewing empire, and was floated as an independent company in April 2003. Since then, its story has changed very little, if at all.
The group behind the InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands has been consistently selling off hotels as part of a long-standing ?asset light strategy?.
Put simply, it prefers to leave property ownership to the real estate giants and to get on with the business of running hotels, striking long-term contracts with the owners.
The proceeds are then invested in its brands ? of which there are now nine ? and regularly returned to shareholders through bumper dividends and buybacks.
Barely a year goes by without IHG unveiling another significant return to shareholders. Last August it rewarded its investors with a $350m (?212m) special dividend and it?s hardly surprising that analysts are already talking about another return in the order of $300m in their 2014 forecasts.
IHG has so far returned $9.4bn to shareholders since it was de-merged from Mitchells & Butlers, the pubs and restaurants business spun out of Six Continents.
Predictable? Solomons, who joined Bass back in 1992 and has remained with the company through its various incarnations, holds his hands up.
?That?s a good thing isn?t it?? he says sitting in the club lounge of the InterContinental Park Lane, which was sold to a Qatari investment group for ?301.5m last March.
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