LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Whitbread shares jumped more than 7 percent on Wednesday after U.S.-based hedge fund Sachem Head Capital Management said it owns a 3.4 percent stake in the hotel and coffee chain operator.
Whitbread, owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn, has been the subject of break-up speculation in the past.
Before Wednesday's jump, Whitbread shares were down nearly 2 percent this year, having risen in part on hopes that Premier Inn's domestic hotels would benefit from foreign visitors cashing in on the weak pound. They fell back when those benefits turned out to be smaller than expected.
The company warned in April of a tougher consumer environment, as rising inflation and muted wage growth forced consumers to rein in spending.
The shares closed about 7.5 percent higher at 3,990 pence.
Sachem Head, with about $4 billion in assets under management, was founded in 2013 by Scott Ferguson, one of a number for former partners at Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management who have launched their own funds.
The New York-based firm has been very popular with investors, both because of its steady run of positive returns and the fact Ferguson largely stays out of the headlines.
While Ferguson shies away from being called an activist investor, the firm has taken activist positions and pushed for change at some companies it has invested in.
Ferguson took a board seat at software maker Autodesk , and has held sizeable stakes in CDK Global and Zoetis. Its current UK holdings include Worldpay Group and Shire.
A spokeswoman for Whitbread was not immediately available for a comment.
A spokesman for Sachem Head declined to comment beyond Wednesday's regulatory filing, which declared contracts for difference over 6.2 million shares expiring July 2020. (Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman)