* First qtr profit more than quadruples to $123 mln
* First qtr RevPAR rises 6.6 pct
* Co raises FY profit forecast to $0.64-$0.67/share from
* Shares rise as much as 3.6 pct in early trade
(Adds shares, details on debt, analyst comment)
By Rohit T. K.
May 9 Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc
raised its full-year profit forecast after increasing business
and leisure travel in the United States allowed the company to
charge more for its rooms in the first quarter.
Hilton's shares were up 3.6 percent in early trading on
Friday, after the company also reported better-than-expected
Hilton, the world's largest hotel operator by market value,
said it now expects a full-year profit of 64-67 cents per share,
up from its earlier forecast of 57-61 cents.
Rising consumer confidence in a recovering U.S. economy has
boosted the travel industry, allowing hotels to raise room
Hilton's first-quarter revenue per available room (RevPAR)
increased 6.6 percent at hotels open for at least a year.
The hotelier, whose brands include Conrad and Waldorf
Astoria, said it expects RevPAR to rise 5.5-6.5 percent in the
RevPAR is calculated by multiplying a hotel's average daily
room rate by its occupancy rate.
"There's never been a better time in lodging," Macquarie
Research analyst Chad Beynon said.
"(The industry is) back to peak occupancy. It's a very
healthy place in the cycle right now. We would expect greater
increases in pricing," Beynon added.
Hilton's total occupancy rose to 69.8 percent in the quarter
from 67.9 percent last year.
Marriott International Inc, Hyatt Hotels Corp
and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc have also
reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings and
announced plans to return cash to shareholders through stock
Hilton, which went public last December, did not announce
any stock repurchase plans on Friday.
Beynon said he did not expect the company to buy back shares
until it had repaid some of its debt.
"Their goal right now is to reduce leverage ... and once
they get closer to investment grade debt, that's when I think
they would look to buy back stock," he said.
Hilton had debt of about $12.5 billion as of March 31.
The company's net income attributable to shareholders rose
to $123 million, or 12 cents per share, from $34 million, or 3
cents per share, a year earlier.
On an adjusted basis, Hilton earned 13 cents per share.
Revenue rose 4 percent to $2.36 billion.
Analysts on average expected a profit of 9 cents per share
on revenue of $2.34 billion, according to Thomson Reuters
The company, founded in 1919 by Conrad Hilton, has 4,155
hotels with nearly 700,000 rooms. Its IPO raised more than $2.3
billion in what was the second-largest offering in 2013.
Blackstone Group LP, which had taken Hilton private
in 2007, has a 76 percent stake in the company.
Hilton's shares, which have gained about 5 percent since
their debut, were trading up 2.5 percent at $23.20 on the New
York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Rohit T. K. in Bangalore; Editing by Simon