PARIS (Reuters) - Shares in France’s Accor (ACCP.PA) rallied on Thursday after Le Figaro newspaper reported it had examined a potential merger with British rival InterContinental Hotels (IHG) (IHG.L) that would create the world’s biggest hotel group.

The hospitality sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis as travel dwindles, forcing many hotel owners to temporarily halt bookings and shore up their finances.

Le Figaro said no formal approach had been made by Accor, which is behind brands such as Ibis and Movenpick, to IHG, which owns Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. Based on current prices, a combined firm could have a market value of about $17 billion.

Without citing sources, it added Accor’s management board was in favour of a deal, but Accor chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin, who had set up an internal taskforce on the matter, was more cautious about moving ahead.

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