Heck of a heterogeneous results season, Bob

As a resident of the sixth arrondissement in Paris, where we have a square named after Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, this pontificator can confirm that the French have no objections to using the long words. It’s really only in the UK where breaching two syllables is seen as showing off.

So it came as no great shock to see the headline ‘The recovery is gaining traction, but remains heterogeneous’ attached to Accor’s half-year results. A quick Google confirmed that the recovery IS going to be heterogeneous, or, as one might explain to a small child, pet, or former hack, pretty diverse.

The good news for Accor was that its pretty diverse estate included a lot of action in Europe, where the vaccine passport is not heterogeneous, but standard across the board, so if you, like me, were in the south of France last week, you will have seen cars from all over the bloc seeking some summer sun.

The company produced a handy diagram of what it sees as a threefold recovery pattern, with ‘delayed rebound’, ‘ready for rebound’ and ‘confirmed rebound’ – rebound being confirmed in US, China and Australia. The chart was plotted between pace of recovery and weight of domestic market, which explains why US, China and Australia were poking out of the top. 

Other highlights for Accor included an actual net profit and the news that it had halved its monthly cash burn and had access to €3.4bn. Are times now stable enough for it to deploy that cash? And how stable does it need to be for Accor anyway? 

Our guess is not very and, as we enter the Quarter of Reckoning, the company is going to be sniffing around for much to take its fancy, despite sniffy comments to analysts from Jean-Jacques Morin, deputy CEO, about not being caught up in the “distractions” of M&A. This isn’t the first time Accor has said such things – in 2019 Sébastien Bazin, chairman & CEO, told the assembled at the launch of ALL that the group was not working on any M&A, but focusing on “team, brands, loyalty and guests”. 

As we saw last month, the group was happy to participate in Treebo’s funding round without having its head swivelled too far from the day to day. We’re sure it can cope.

At least the group’s spac was open and out there, although it has yet to reach out and grab anything. It is looking for “one or more companies in sectors related to the core hotel business operated by Accor, notably in the Food & Beverage segment, but also for flex office activities, wellness, entertainment and events and technologies linked to the hotel industry”. So really, anyone in, or nearby, or within viewing distance of the hotel sector, apply there now for €300m.

Although Accor can be something of an outlier in the market – no! – it wasn’t the only company being heterogeneous this week and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts was hailing the return of one of our favourite pandemic demographics, the “everyday business traveller”. “How was your day, dear?”, “oh, just doing some everyday business”.

The company is somewhat looked down on by many in the sector, dealing as it does largely in the budget end of the market, largely in franchises. What can we say? People are snobs. What the pandemic showed is that you can’t fight the reality that if you have huge domestic coverage at advantageous prices, you’re going to say things on your earnings calls like “Our brands continue to capture market share gains above pre-pandemic levels” and “another strong quarter of adjusted EBITDA and cash flow allowed us to increase our dividend by 50%” – Geoff Ballotti, president & CEO. 

Meanwhile at Melià, Gabriel Escarrer was talking about “differential strengths” rather than heterogeneous talents, where he could just as easily have said: “you know how you all saw our resorts as a weakness? Well nuts to that” although that would have been questionable PR and we wouldn’t sanction it. OK, maybe a bit. To favoured hacks. 

Hilton joined the party in the afternoon, with Chris Nassetta, president & CEO, ever the sharp shooter, straight down the line with “the pace of recovery varies by region”. Nassetta was also glowing about the leisure business which 18 months ago was but a passing fancy. He was beaming about forecasts in net unit growth for the full year of between 5.0% and 5.5%. For comparison, in 2019, Hilton achieved 6.6% net unit growth.

All of a sudden those 30-strong brand stables which are meant to cater to everyone don’t look so silly. Although one suspects the most erudite CEO can’t name them all. 

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