UPDATE 1-Choice Hotels Q1 profit edges past Street

Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:44pm EDT

* Q1 EPS $0.27 vs est. $0.26

* Q1 revPAR down 10.3 pct

* Sees 2010 revPAR down 1 pct-3 pct

* Sees 2010 EPS $1.68-$1.72 vs est. $1.68

April 26 (Reuters) - Choice Hotels International Inc's (CHH.N) first-quarter profit edged past Wall Street estimates on new unit growth and said revenue per available room (revPAR) in 2010 will fall less than expected as industry trends stabilize.

However, for the second-quarter, the company said it expects earnings per share of at least 42 cents with an expected 2 percent fall in revPAR.

Analysts on average were expecting Choice to earn 44 cents for the second quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

For the year, the company now expects revPAR to fall 1 percent to 3 percent, up from its earlier expectations of a 2 percent to 4 percent decline.

For the first quarter, Choice reported a net income of $15.8 million, or 26 cents a share, compared with $16.3 million, or 27 cents, last year.

Excluding items, it earned 27 cents a share, narrowly beating analysts' expectations for earnings of 26 cents a share.

RevPAR in the quarter fell 10.3 percent while new units grew 2.9 percent.

Being a pure-play hotel franchisor, revPAR and new unit growth are key earnings drivers for the company.

Shares of Choice, which franchises Comfort Inn and Cambria Suites hotels, closed at $38.87 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Abhishek Takle in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)