Millennium & Copthorne, the hotels group controlled by Hong Kong-listed CDL Hotels, yesterday saw its shares jump 4 per cent as the group unveiled a strong rise in 1997 profit. Pre-tax profit jumped 32 per cent to GBP50.2 million (about HK$638.79 million) as turnover climbed 22 per cent to GBP202.6 million. Operating profit soared 33 per cent to GBP63.5 million. The group, which owns 24 four-star hotels, said its outlook was positive, based on strong economic growth in Britain and the United States and improving fortunes in France and Germany. 'Our hotels are not experiencing any measurable dilution of business from Asia,' chairman Kwek Leng Beng said. He said streamlining operations, improving operating margins and establishing a special niche in the conference market had helped growth last year. 'In 1998, we will continue to focus on yield management and cost control and are confident of being able to grow revenue through higher room rates,' Mr Kwek said. Occupancies rose 2.3 per cent to 79.4 per cent while the average room rate grew 10 per cent to GBP82.39, the group said. Gross operating profit margin rose 3.9 per cent to 46 per cent. Occupancy at its five London hotels rise 1.7 per cent to 85.3 per cent. 'Without taking the Millennium Britannia into account [as the hotel only became part of the group towards the end of 1996], the yield per available room recorded a growth of 13 per cent over last year,' the group said. Its London hotels brought in GBP75.5 million last year, up 30 per cent on 1996, while gross operating profit rose 42 per cent to GBP41.6 million. The group said it had almost completed all the refurbishment of its London hotels. Its British hotels outside London performed even more strongly, with occupancy for all 11 hotels up 77.4 per cent as the weekend market expanded significantly. The average room rate grew 6 per cent to GBP60.50, despite the fact it was unable to benefit from the high room rates experienced during the European Cup football tournament in 1996. 'Our tight cost control, which did not result in any dilution in service, product standards or customer satisfaction, enabled us to improve the gross operating profit margin by 23 per cent to GBP23.4 million,' the group said. Millennium's New York hotel recorded a 12 per cent jump in revenue to US$100.9 million, while gross operating profit margin rose 20 per cent to $41.4 million. This was despite sterling's 5 per cent appreciation against the US dollar and the New York hotel only becoming part of the group in March 1996.