Undeterred by Brexit, Hotelier Perseveres With U.K. Adventure

(Bloomberg) -- When British voters opted to exit the European Union in 2016, Irish hotelier Pat McCann hit the pause button on U.K. expansion. Two years on, he’s full of growth plans in Britain.

Dalata Hotel Group Plc, Ireland’s largest hotelier, has nine hotels in Britain, with two more planned in coming months. He sees four more in the U.K. in 2020 and two more in 2021. His decision to hold fire after the referendum left the slate empty for 2019.

Undeterred by Brexit, Hotelier Perseveres With U.K. Adventure

“I wouldn’t be concerned about the U.K. per se,” McCann said in an interview in the Gibson Hotel, in Dublin’s docklands. “We’ll see a good robust performance.”

For some, the alarm went off when Dalata said last month trading at its U.K. hotels had been mixed. Still, McCann put that down to Airbnb, and a hot summer deterring urban tourists, rather than Brexit. McCann said he doesn’t think the U.K. will crash out of the bloc without a deal. Instead, he sees an “endless transition,” with talks continuing for a decade or more as opposed to the two years now planned.

“This will go on forever,” he said. “There isn’t a hope” the final trade talks will be wrapped by 2021.

Undeterred by Brexit, Hotelier Perseveres With U.K. Adventure

Founded in 2007, Dalata controls a portfolio of 39 three- and four-star hotels with 8,200 rooms, and another 2,300 rooms under development.

The company has properties in cities such as Manchester, Leeds and London, where a key gauge, revenue per available room, fell 1 percent in the first half. Its shares dropped, worsening a decline that began in July. The company’s shares dropped 1 percent on Friday in Dublin, giving the company a value of 976 million euros ($1.1 billion).

Undeterred by Brexit, Hotelier Perseveres With U.K. Adventure

McCann said hot weather may have deterred some tourists from coming to London.

“I love a good old wet summer,” McCann quipped. “September saw a little bit of improvement. ”

He remains “comfortable” with analysts’ expectations for this year and next year. About a fifth of his profit comes from the U.K., and he’s planning hotels in Glasgow, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester.

Still, he does see at least one issue in the U.K. linked to the Brexit vote -- finding staff in London.

“They haven’t the same numbers arriving.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.