Marriott and Starwood report weakness in France, the Middle East, NYC

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Following the November attacks in Paris, travel to France curtailed. Pictured, the Paris Marriott Champs Elysees.
Following the November attacks in Paris, travel to France curtailed. Pictured, the Paris Marriott Champs Elysees.

Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts both missed their fourth-quarter revenue forecasts because of lower demand in energy markets such as Houston, lower prices in in New York, less travel to parts of Europe because of November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, and weakness in the Middle East and Africa.

Both companies on Thursday separately conducted their first earnings calls since announcing Marriott’s plan to acquire Starwood last November. Both companies reaffirmed that the acquisition would close mid-year 2016.

Marriott’s worldwide fourth-quarter revenue per available room (RevPAR), excluding currency effects, rose 3.8% from a year earlier, less than the 4% to 6% range Marriott forecasted in October. While North America RevPAR was up 4%, that slowed slightly from the third quarter’s RevPAR growth. RevPAR in the Middle East and Africa was down 6.4%.

Both companies noted that the Paris terrorist attacks and the resulting security-related fears curtailed travel to France and, to a lesser extent, the U.K., adding that business travel to German hotels also suffered because of a slowdown in trade between Germany and China.

Starwood CFO Alan Schnaid, speaking during the company’s conference call, referred to Europe as “a tale of two regions,” noting that demand for Starwood’s hotels in Italy and Spain were on the upswing.

Select-service brands SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites had RevPAR increases of 7.3% and 6.9%, respectively, while the Ritz-Carlton luxury brand had just a 1.7% RevPAR increase.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, speaking with analysts Thursday morning, cited weakness in the U.S. energy and manufacturing sectors and said that New York’s new room supply has reduced prices. He added that San Francisco demand has “moderated” as travelers choose alternate and relatively cheaper markets such as Los Angeles.

The company reduced its 2016 forecast for RevPAR growth from 5% to 4%.

“We’re looking at a world with more anxiety in the marketplace, and as a consequence, we’ve been more conservative in the forecast we’ve provided,” Sorenson said.

Marriott’s fourth-quarter net income rose 2.5%, to $202 million, while revenue advanced 4.1%, to $3.71 billion.

Meanwhile, Starwood’s global RevPAR rose 2.8%, less than the 3% to 5% range the company had forecasted. While North America RevPAR advanced 4.7%, the Middle East and Africa’s RevPAR fell 2.9% while Greater China’s RevPAR was down 2.3%. Latin America’s was little changed.

Starwood’s Westin and St. Regis/Luxury Collection brands had RevPAR increases of 5.2% and 4.9%, respectively, while RevPAR at W was unchanged. Starwood’s revenue fell 4%, to $1.43 billion, as the company sold a number of its previously owned hotels. Net income fell 29%, to $166 million, as one-time expenses rose as the company explored strategic alternatives and prepared for the Marriott acquisition and its timeshare division spinoff.

“It’s been anything but business as usual in 2015,” said Starwood CEO Thomas Mangas on his company’s conference call with analysts Thursday.

Marriott announced in November that it would buy Starwood for $12.2 billion in a move that will create by far the world’s largest hotel company. Neither Sorenson nor Mangas disclosed details on how the two companies’ 30 combined brands would be integrated.

Starwood and Marriott are each having stockholders meetings March 28 to approve the proposed acquisition.

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