* 2nd-qtr EBIT 263 mln euros vs poll 262 mln euros
* Eyes 2015 EBIT of 650-680 mln euros vs poll 688 mln
* Brazil, France remain challenging markets
* CEO has “true ambition” to expand in Iran market (Adds CEO comments from call, share reaction)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, July 30 (Reuters) - AccorHotels’s expects its operating profit to rise this year as Europe’s largest hotel group benefits from an economic recovery in the region and its restructuring efforts, it said on Thursday.
But it cautioned that its main markets of France and Brazil would remain challenging and its 2015 outlook for earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) lagged market expectations, driving its shares down 3 percent.
“During the coming months, the group expects a continuation of the trends observed during the first half, with sustained growth in most markets, a more mixed environment in France, and a challenging situation in Brazil,” Chief Executive Sebastien Bazin said.
AccorHotels, which competes with InterContinental, Marriott and Starwood, is undergoing a reorganisation started by Bazin.
Bazin also told journalists that Accor had “a true ambition” in Iran, where it is in talks with local authorities to use the Ibis and Novotel names on two hotels at the Tehran airport.
The world’s fourth-largest hotel company forecast 2015 operating profit of 650 million euros to 680 million euros ($713-$746 million), compared with 602 million reported in 2014.
This was below the 688 million euros average expected by analysts in a ThomsonReuters I/B/E/S poll
First-half operating profit rose 8 percent like-for-like to 263 million euros, broadly in line with expectations.
Revenue grew 4.1 percent to 2.73 billion euros in the first-half, reflecting strong growth in Europe, excluding France, where growth was moderate and sustained growth in emerging markets, except Brazil where the economy is slowing down.
AccorHotels, whose 14 hotel brands range from budget Ibis to luxury Sofitel, has faced a string of problems in France ranging from a weak economic climate to rising value-added taxes in its home market which generates 30 percent of group revenue.
Bazin took the top post at Accor two years ago. His first move has been to split the company into two divisions -HotelServices and HotelInvest - to separate its operating and franchising business from its real estate ownership activity in a bid to bolster profitability.
He has also stepped up spending on its digital business, responding to competition from online rivals such as Expedia and Booking.com.
In China, Accor has teamed up with China Lodging Group to speed up expansion in the region.
Bazin said on Thursday his expansion plans in China remained on track and that the budget hotel segment had not slowed down despite concerns over weaker economic growth in the country. ($1 = 0.9113 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan and Susan Thomas)