(Adds CFO comments from call)
PARIS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - AccorHotels, Europe’s top hotels group, cut back the upper end of its 2016 profit target range on Tuesday after French and Belgian operations were hit by security fears in the third quarter.
The world’s fifth-largest hotel group said these two countries remained a major point of vigilance for the group even though it achieved robust growth in most of its other key markets - including Britain, where the weak post-Brexit pound induced people to stay in the country for their holidays and attracted foreign visitors.
AccorHotels, undergoing an overhaul begun by Chief Executive Sebastien Bazin in 2013, said it was now forecasting a 2016 operating profit of between 670 million and 690 million euros.
This compared with a previous range of 670 million euros and 720 million euros for 2016 and against 665 million in 2015.
Weakness in France, the group’s largest market accounting for 30 percent of revenue and EBIT, was the main reason for the revision, Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Morin told a conference call.
Third quarter sales rose 1.8 percent to 1.538 billion euros ($1.69 billion)like-for-like, a slight deceleration from 2 percent growth in the second quarter.
Growth was robust in the key markets of Germany and Britain, where a weak pound following Britain’s vote to leave the EU led the British to favour their own country for the holidays.
Britain is the group’s third-largest market after France and Germany, accounting for around 15 percent of its sales and EBIT. UK sales grew 2.2 percent like-for-like in the quarter.
“The weak British pound boosted foreign short-stay leisure sector and led to the British favouring the United Kingdom as a main holiday destination,” the group said in a statement.
Revenue in America rose 19 percent, driven by the Olympic games in Rio and by business in North America.
In France, however, revenue fell 4.7 percent in the third quarter and Revenue per Available Room (RevPar) in Paris alone fell 18 percent due to safety fears following Islamist attacks.
Morin said he expected the trend in France to slightly improve in the fourth quarter thanks to more favorable year-ago comparables and the Paris Motor Show and the SIAL food fair.
“It will be some time however before demand improves,” he said
Foreign tourist arrivals to France could fall 4-5 percent this year and research firm KPMG warned that French hotels could suffer a revenue fall of 10 percent in 2016.
$1 = 0.9097 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Callus