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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Sars takes toll on Hilton
Hilton hotel entrance
Luxury hotel group Hilton has unveiled a steep drop in profits, blaming the outbreak of the deadly Sars virus and the war in Iraq.

The company said pre-tax profits for the four months to late April were down by 25% compared with the same period last year, without providing detailed figures.

It said the Sars outbreak and the Iraqi war had made trading conditions "difficult" last month, with its operations in London, Continental Europe, and the Asia Pacific region particularly hard hit.

The difficulties in its hotel division outweighed a "strong" performance from its Ladbrokes betting shop chain.

"It's a pattern we're getting used to - Ladbrokes propping up the hotels," said Mark Reed, an analyst at stockbrokers Teather & Greenwood.

Recovery hopes

However, the firm said hotel bookings had picked up since the end of hostilities in Iraq, and predicted that business would return to normal later in the summer.

It added that its performance for the year as a whole would meet market expectations.

City investors welcomed the company's upbeat comments, marking its share price up 3.5% to 176p.

Hilton, in common with other companies in the travel and tourism sector, has been hit by a range of setbacks over the past two years, including the 11 September attacks, the global economic downturn, and now the SARS virus.

Its share price has fallen by about a third over the past year.

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