(Adds CFO comments, Jin Jiang news from call)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, April 19 (Reuters) - AccorHotels, Europe’s largest hotel group, posted higher underlying sales on Tuesday as robust demand for hotel rooms in most markets overcame a weaker performance in France and in recession-hit Brazil.
Meanwhile, Shanghai Jin Jiang International had further raised its stake in AccorHotels to 14.98 percent of its capital and 13.07 percent of its voting rights as of March 31, finance head Jean-Jacques Morin told journalists.
Morin said he would not make further comments on the move by Jin Jiang, which is already AcccorHotels’ top shareholder.
Shares in AccorHotels rose sharply on April 12 after Bloomberg said Jin Jiang could build up a stake in the company to about 20 percent, citing sources.
Jin Jiang, which already owns France’s Louvre Hotels Group, is among a growing number of Chinese firms investing in Europe’s tourism industry.
First quarter revenue reached 1.161 billion euros, an increase of 1.9 percent excluding currency effects, acquisitions and disposals. On a published basis, revenue declined 5.2 percent year-on-year.
The quarterly revenue figure fell short of the 1.2 billion expected by analysts, based on the average of estimates polled by Thomson Reuters.
The performance reflected sound demand in the group’s key markets and particularly in the Middle East, Africa as well as in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe.
The world’s fourth-largest hotel group, with 3,900 hotels ranging from the luxury Sofitel to the budget Ibis chains, said French business was lower due to Islamist militant attacks in Europe, with sales in the country down 1.6 percent in January to March.
But the company said its domestic business should return to positive year-on-year growth in the second quarter thanks in part to the Euro 2016 soccer tournament in June.
“We are seeing a slow but regular improvement in the Paris region while the trend is good in other French regions,” Morin said. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Laurence Frost and Alexander Smith)