UPDATE 1-Blackstone-backed La Quinta to raise up to $780 mln in IPO
* Plans to sell 37.2 mln shares at $18-$21 each
* Co will have equity valuation of $2.57 bln at top of range
* Shares to list on NYSE under symbol "LQ"
* IPO scheduled to price on April 8 - underwriter (Adds listing details, industry background)
March 27 (Reuters) - La Quinta Holdings Inc will raise as much as $780 million from its initial public offering, as it becomes the third hotel chain to be taken public by Blackstone Group LP in six months.
Blackstone has been aggressively selling or taking public its real estate assets at a time when the U.S. hotel industry has been recovering.
Room rates and occupancy levels expected to increase this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Blackstone took Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc public in the biggest-ever hotel IPO in December. It has also bought shopping center company Brixmor Property Group Inc and hotel chain Extended Stay America Inc to the market last year.
Blackstone, the largest publicly listed alternative asset manager, took La Quinta private in 2006 in a $3.4 billion deal.
The Irving, Texas-based hotel chain expects to sell all the 37.2 million shares in its IPO at between $18 and $21 per share, it said in a filing with U.S. regulators on Thursday. (r.reuters.com/fud97v)
The company will have an equity valuation of $2.57 billion at the top of the expected price range. It had pro forma total debt of $2.1 billion at Dec. 31, 2013.
The IPO will be priced on April 8, an underwriter told Reuters. The company's stock is expected to begin trading a day later under the symbol "LQ" on the New York Stock Exchange.
With more than 830 hotels, La Quinta is one of the largest owners and operators of budget hotels in the United States.
It posted net income of $44.5 million on total revenue of $909 million, on a pro forma basis, in 2013.
Blackstone will hold a stake of about 64 percent in La Quinta after the IPO if the underwriters fully exercise their option to buy additional shares, according to the IPO filing. (Reporting by Aman Shah in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)
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