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LONDON (Reuters) - Whitbread plc (WTB.L) said it would spin off Costa Coffee, Britain’s biggest coffee chain, saying it could thrive as a separately listed business.

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A cup of espresso is pictured on a table at a branch of Costa Coffee near Manchester, Britain May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

The move leaves Whitbread with its Premier Inn hotels operation and the split is expected to be completed within 24 months.

It said Costa Coffee, the world’s second largest coffee shop chain, had attractive long-term international opportunities.

Chief Executive Alison Brittain said: “Given the progress Whitbread is making, we are confident that both Premier Inn and Costa will soon be businesses of sufficient strength, scale and capability to enable them to thrive as independent companies.”

She said the split would be pursued as fast as practical to optimize value for Whitbread’s shareholders.

The announcement came after Whitbread reported growth in full-year revenue of 6.1 percent to 3.3 million pounds and a 4.5 percent rise in underlying profit before tax to 591 million pounds.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Sarah Young/Guy Faulconbridge

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