IHG Plc CEO Keith Barr will step down next month after six years at the helm, the Holiday Inn owner said on Friday, sending its shares lower despite strong first-quarter results due to Chinese demand recovers.
The 52-year-old American man plans to return to his family in the United States, IHG said, adding that he will be succeeded by the head of the Americas Elie Maalouf.
IHG shares fell 2.8% to 5,364 pence by 08:40 GMT.
Barr ran the company’s China business for several years and became CEO in 2017 at a time when online home rental companies like Airbnb were starting to capture market share.
“Keith has done a great job of invigorating the brand portfolio and improving loyalty and digital offerings,” Bernstein analysts said.
Shares of IHG, owner of Crowne Plaza, have risen about 29% under Barr’s leadership.
Maalouf, 59, will take over a business that is returning to pre-pandemic growth, but with an uncertain economic outlook weighing on consumer-focused industries.
However, some relief was seen as early as 2023, after China lifted COVID containment measures in December.
IHG said first-quarter revenue per available room (RevPAR) – a key measure of industry-leading performance – grew 33%, driven by a 75% increase in the Greater China region.
US peers Hilton and Marriott International Inc also benefited from China’s recovery and pent-up travel demand.
However, when compared to 2019, the RevPAR of the IHG group for the quarter increased by 6.8%, while the RevPAR of China decreased by 9%.
In an interview, Barr said in an interview, travel demand from small and medium businesses and throughout the summer will drive growth.
Airlines around the world are also seeing strong ticket sales for summer travel, with consumers prioritizing travel spending despite high inflation.
On commercial real estate lending slowing down, Barr said IHG expects it to “normalize over time.”
(Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Conor Humphries and Mark Potter)
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