UPDATE 3-Marriott sees weakness in international markets

Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:39pm EDT

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By A. Ananthalakshmi

July 11 (Reuters) - Hotel operator Marriott International Inc reported a higher quarterly profit but said it was seeing weakness in some international markets.

The company, which owns the Ritz-Carlton, Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott brands, slightly lowered its fee revenue outlook for the full year citing weak overseas demand.

Marriott also cut its forecast for revenue per available room (revPAR) from the international markets but raised its full-year earnings forecast.

"This is a quarter of gives and takes," said Nomura Securities analyst Harry Curtis.

International business was weakening due to Europe issues. U.S. business is doing well but will have to be supported by continued economic growth, Curtis said.

Marriott said Middle East and Asia experienced softer demand growth, particularly in the luxury segment.

It expects revPAR -- a key metric for hotel companies as it indicates pricing power -- to grow 5 to 7 percent in its international business, down 1 percent from its earlier view. The company maintained North American revPAR growth forecast of 6 to 8 percent.

Spokeswoman Laura Paugh said international business was seeing weak demand due to economic growth concerns.

"Our outlook for rest of the year is quite good. We don't see any sign of economic weakness in the United States," she said.

She said the company was on track to return $1 billion to shareholders in 2012 through dividends and share repurchases.

Marriott repurchased about $400 million worth of stock during the quarter.

IN-LINE SECOND QUARTER

Marriott's second-quarter net income rose to $143 million, or 42 cents per share, from $135 million, or 37 cents per share, a year earlier.

The profit was in line with analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"In North America, strengthening group business, more travel by our special corporate customers, especially in the technology and consulting industries, and the impact of modest supply growth, drove our occupancy and room rates higher," Chief Executive Arne Sorenson said in a statement.

Worldwide comparable systemwide revPAR rose 6.7 percent during the quarter.

Marriott expects to add 20,000 to 25,000 rooms in 2012.

Its shares fell 2 percent to $37.20 after the bell. They closed at $38.03 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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