Whitbread is considering selling off Marriott hotels for £1bn to ease the level of investment tied up in the company and allow it to focus on brands like the Costa coffee chain, where it is already the market leader. Other options in chief executive Alan Parker's strategic review of the business are believed to include a sale and leaseback of Marriott. A trading statement last week revealed that sales growth at Marriott had slipped to 4.9% during the first half of the year against 6% in the first quarter. The hotel assets are valued in the books at £1.16bn, with a return on capital employed of 6.2% compared with almost 10% for the whole group, which includes Pizza Hut, TGI Friday's and the Brewers Fayre pub chain. But any disposal would require approval from Marriott Inc of the US, with whom Whitbread has had a franchise agreement since 1995. The Sunday Telegraph 05/09/04 (Business) page 2