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LONDON-McDonald’s has decided to sell Aroma, the British coffee-bar company it picked up two years ago. Investment bank SG Hambros is looking for £15 million to trade Aroma, which once formed part of McDonald’s plans to expand rapidly into the coffee outlet market. The hamburger giant has decided that there are simply to many coffee shops to make the market competitive, although is still looking to add £5 million to the £10 million it paid in 1999.

Aroma had 23 outlets, 300 staff and annual sales of £10 million when it sold out. McDonald’s has pushed that number up to 35 outlets and it is widely forecast that rival groups, such as Coffee Republic and Cafe Nero, will be jostling with one another to secure the purchase.

This will not mark the end of McDonald’s involvement with coffee-shops. In Chicago it is testing McCafe gourmet coffee shops which, if successful could be rolled out to other cities. McDonald’s is thought to be concerned that the core business of its ‘Burger and chips’ operation could face a downturn as consumer tastes become more sophisticated. It is already experimenting with more unconventional menu items as well as opening niche restaurant chains, such as McDonald’s “diners”. The company also has a 33% stake in Pret A Manger, the UK sandwich-bar chain.LONDON-The Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, located next to the US Embassy, has been placed on the market by its Japanese owners, Adachi, with an asking price of £100m.

The Marriott Grosvenor Square, in fashionable Mayfair, is one of the capital’s most prominent hotels, boasting 221 rooms which are available for anything up to £950 per night. It is only the latest luxury hotel to come onto the market against a back drop of reduced visitors to Britain from the US as the American economy continues its downward spiral. Adachi, the Japanese property group, owns the building with Marriott International, controlling the management contract to run it. Adachi is believed to have appointed Sanwa bank to advise on the sale.

Other top hotels currently for sale include the Hilton on Park Lane where freeholder, Land Securities, wants £160m while the Lanesborough at Hyde Park Corner, where each of the 95 rooms is valued at £1.26 million and is available for £120 million.

Preliminary numbers for London from the latest Andersen Hotel Industry benchmark survey initially indicate that London’s hoteliers turned in a poor performance in July. Average average room rates have declined this year with demand also continuing to fall in July with occupancy down 5% to 84%.

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