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IHG books $153 million loss, Holiday Inn softens coronavirus blow

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IHG books $153 million loss, Holiday Inn softens coronavirus blow 1

By Tanishaa Nadkar

(Reuters) – InterContinental Hotels booked an annual loss of $153 million on Tuesday, pummelled by repeated COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, but said a faster recovery in its Holiday Inn Express brand had helped it outperform in key markets.

The company, which previously scrapped its final dividend, said 2020 was the most challenging year in its history as revenue per available room slumped 52.5%, with global travel and entertainment spending remaining under pressure.

Pinning its hopes on the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and a wider economic rebound, IHG said the industry was unlikely to see a recovery until later in the year but hinted that global travel was starting to recover.

“People want to travel again…It is the thing that people have missed most and so there is enormous pent up demand to travel,” Chief Financial Officer Paul Edgecliffe-Johnson said, adding that “travel will come back very rapidly.”

Shares of the company were up 3.8% at 5,516 pence by 0845 GMT, amid a near 3% rise on the FTSE 350 travel and leisure index as Britain saw a surge in flight and hotel bookings after the government said would-be holidaymakers will be given clarity on making plans for the summer by April 12.

Demand remained stronger in IHG’s Holiday Inn Express business, which represents about 70% of its rooms in the U.S. market and has historically been impacted less and recovered faster than other segments in economic downturns, the company said.

“IHG is at the start of a prolonged period of commercial recovery,” Peel Hunt analysts said in a note.

Still, IHG reported a group operating loss of $153 million for the year ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $630 million last year.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Alexander Smith)

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Aviva sells French business to Macif’s Aéma Groupe for $3.9 billion

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Aviva sells French business to Macif's Aéma Groupe for $3.9 billion 2

LONDON (Reuters) – Aviva has agreed the sale of its operations in France for 3.2 billion euros ($3.89 billion) to Macif’s Aéma Groupe, as part of the British insurer’s shift to focus on its core operations in Britain, Ireland and Canada.

London-based Aviva, led by boss Amanda Blanc, said the sale would increase excess capital by 2.1 billion pounds ($2.95 billion) and cash of around 2.8 billion pounds.

Aéma Groupe, formed in January through the merger of French mutual insurer Macif Group and Aésio Mutuelle, has 8 million customers and a turnover of 8 billion euros.

Aviva France has 3 million customers and 7.8 billion euros in revenue. It covers life insurance, property and casualty and asset management markets in France.

Aviva’s share price rose by 1.7% at the open in London.

“The transaction will increase Aviva’s financialstrength, remove significant volatility and bring real focus to the Group,” Chief Executive Officer Blanc said.

Aviva expects to use the proceeds of the sale to support debt reduction, invest for long-term growth and return excess capital to shareholders.

The sale is central to Blanc’s turnaround plan aimed at streamlining its business after prolonged share price weakness has concerned investors.

The insurer, which aims to complete the disposal by the end of 2021, is looking to sell its continental European and Asian businesses, it said last year.

Final bids for its Polish operations that could fetch around 2 billion euros are due on Friday, sources have previously told Reuters.

It is also in the process of selling its Italian business, sources had said.

($1 = 0.8218 euros)

($1 = 0.7108 pounds)

(Reporting by Clara Denina; Editing by Rachel Armstrong, Louise Heavens and David Evans)

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Huawei 2020 revenue ticks up despite U.S. sanctions, chairman says

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Huawei 2020 revenue ticks up despite U.S. sanctions, chairman says 3

By Josh Horwitz

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies saw slight revenue and profit growth in 2020, in line with its expectations, its rotating chairman said on Tuesday, even as Washington toughened up sanctions against the Chinese telecom equipment maker.

The company was put on an export blacklist by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019 and barred from accessing critical technology of U.S. origin, affecting its ability to design its own chips and source components from outside vendors.

Huawei has repeatedly denied it poses a security risk.

“Huawei was confronted with some extraordinary difficulties last year,” rotating Chairman Ken Hu said at industry event Mobile World Congress Shanghai.

“Operations were relatively stable and in line with our guidance, registering slight growth in revenue and profit.”

Earlier this month, the company’s founder and Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei said he hoped the Biden administration would “harbour an open policy” towards U.S. firms doing business with Huawei in his first comments to the media in about a year.

China has so far spent more than 260 billion yuan ($40.27 billion) in building its 5G network, an official with the Ministry of Information and Information Technology said on Tuesday.

Huawei on Monday unveiled its new 5G Mate X2 foldable phone, which will use the company’s proprietary Kirin processor.

Though with the cheapest model starting at 17,999 yuan ($2,788), the phone is not positioned to challenge the mainstream phone market.

Huawei set up 50,000 5G base stations in Indonesia, Hu said, adding that it plans to build 2,000 base stations in remote regions of Ghana.

The company is expected to post its full-year results in March, a spokesman said.

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Writing by David Kirton; Editing by Kim Coghill and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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Britain’s G4S recommends $5.4 billion Allied Universal bid, ending takeover tussle

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Britain's G4S recommends $5.4 billion Allied Universal bid, ending takeover tussle 4

(Reuters) – Private security firm G4S on Tuesday recommended shareholders vote for Allied Universal’s final offer valuing the British firm at 3.8 billion pounds ($5.35 billion), after a rare auction ended a bitter months-long takeover battle with Canada’s GardaWorld.

Allied Universal in a separate statement said it has extended its offer period deadline for the 245 pence per share G4S offer to March 16 and the acceptance condition was lowered to 75% in nominal value and voting rights of G4S shares from 90% earlier.

It has obtained “substantially all” of the required antitrust regulatory approvals including in the U.S. and European Union, Allied Universal added. Britain has not yet approved the merger.

The auction for G4S ended abruptly on Monday after hostile bidder GardaWorld stuck with its December bid of 235 pence per share for the world’s largest private security firm and Allied Universal told the takeover regulator it would not revise its offer on day one.

On Tuesday, Allied also said it would not increase its 245 pence per share offer that was first announced on Dec. 8. G4S had backed that offer in December after repeatedly rejecting GardaWorld’s hostile advances.

The battle for UK’s G4S had hit a deadlock earlier after the North American bidders repeatedly extended their offer deadlines and shareholders’ acceptance was low, as investors held out for a higher payout.

That led to Britain’s Takeover Panel stepping in to help resolve the bid battle by setting a Feb. 20 deadline for both bidders to make their offers final or head to auction on Feb. 22.

($1 = 0.7107 pounds)

(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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