Intercontinental Hotels Group may consider a “value-creating” takeover bid after activist investors sparked speculation of a possible sale by launching a strategic review of the company.

The hotel giant, which owns the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands, refused to rule out a sale after 4% shareholder Marcato Capital hired bankers to consider options for “enhancing shareholder value at IHG,” The Telegraph reported.

Chief executive Richard Solomons said IHG was not consulted before the move, but added a positive approach would be considered by the company’s “very experienced” board.

He told the newspaper: “We are a British public company with a lot of shareholders and it’s sort of up to them, but our focus is on creating value for them.

“The total shareholder return we’ve given is up there with the best on a very consistent public strategy, which we will continue to pursue for the benefit of all our shareholders – not just one individual one.

Solomans added: “We’re a public company with a very experienced board and chairman, and if there was an approach that was value creating for shareholders of course we would look at it.”

He was speaking as IHG’s shares dropped after it unveiled an 18% fall in first-half pre-tax profits.

Marcato said in a statement: “This review will focus on various alternatives including, but not limited to, improving capital structure and/or capital allocation and strategic transactions.

“Marcato believes current, favourable market conditions presently exist to significantly enhance IHG shareholder value, which may not be available in the future.”