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Millennium & Copthorne expects Brexit-led hiring crunch

Bengaluru

BRITAIN'S impending exit from the European Union is making it hard to hire workers from the bloc who are at the centre of London's hotel business, operator Millennium & Copthorne Hotels said on Friday.

The luxury chain, which owns seven four and five-star hotels in London, including one in Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, said workers from the EU accounted for nearly half of its workforce in London properties.

While housebuilders and others known to rely heavily on east European labour have yet to report any big squeeze on workforces, the comments from the hotel chain are among the first signals from listed firms in the hospitality industry.

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"Concerns about Brexit have affected the Group's UK hotels especially in London," the company said in an annual results release, adding that the issue was adding to pressures on labour costs from last year's increase in the UK minimum wage.

"The hospitality industry faced a range of geopolitical and global economic headwinds in 2018, many of which look set to continue in the current year, including US/China trade relations, Brexit and increasing minimum wage levels in many jurisdictions," the company's Singaporean owner Kwek Leng Beng said.

Millennium & Copthorne said rising labour costs and sluggish demand stemming from Brexit were adding to pressures. Its performance was also hampered by the partial closure of the Millennium Hotel London Mayfair for refurbishment in 2018.

Its New York hotels continued to lose money due to its "inflexible operating cost structure", arising mainly from the employment of trade union staff, the company said.

Full-year reported revenue per available room (RevPAR) fell to £81.57 (S$141.85) in the year ended Dec 31 from £82.78 a year earlier. London RevPAR also fell 7.4 per cent. Reported revenue for the year fell 1.1 per cent to £997 million. REUTERS