Feb 28 - Fitch Ratings has upgraded the credit ratings of Host Hotels &
Resorts (NYSE: HST) and its operating partnership, Host Hotels & Resorts
Limited Partnership (collectively Host, or the company) as follows:
Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
--Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to 'BB+' from 'BB'.
Host Hotels & Resorts, L.P.
--IDR to 'BB+' from 'BB';
--Unsecured revolving credit facility to 'BB+' from 'BB';
--Senior unsecured notes to 'BB+' from 'BB';
--Senior unsecured exchangeable notes to 'BB+' from 'BB'.
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
The upgrade reflects Fitch's view that Host's credit metrics will remain
appropriate for the 'BB+' rating through the lodging cycle. The upgrade reflects
Host's high-quality portfolio of geographically diversified upper tier hotel
properties, its large and liquid unencumbered asset pool and the company's
progress and commitment to sustaining lower leverage.
Positive Hotel Industry Outlook
Fitch has a positive view towards U.S. lodging industry fundamentals owing to
healthy demand from corporate transient and inbound international visitation
trends. Combined with limited new supply, the increase in demand has lifted
occupancy rates to levels that support pricing flexibility. Fitch's base case
incorporates revenue per available room (RevPAR) for U.S. hotels of 4.5% in
2013, which at the low end of the 4%-6% range of forecasts from the leading
industry forecasting services.
Host maintains a high-quality, geographically diversified portfolio of 118
consolidated Luxury and upscale hotel properties across the U.S. including 15
international hotels located in, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and
New Zealand. The company's portfolio provides significant financial flexibility
and geographically diverse cash flows, which Fitch views positively.
Expectations for Sustained Lower Leverage
Host has reduced its leverage from its down cycle peak of 5.5x to 4.4x for the
trailing 12 month period ending Dec. 31, 2012. Fitch defines leverage as net
debt to recurring operating EBITDA, including cash distributions from joint
ventures. Fitch's base case scenario projects Host's leverage to decrease to
3.7x in 2013 and 3.2x in 2014.
Large and Liquid Unencumbered Asset Pool
Along with having $737 million (or 73.7%) of availability under its revolving
credit facility and $417 million of cash on its balance sheet at Dec. 31, 2012,
Host's large unencumbered asset pool provides an excellent source of contingent
liquidity. The company's unencumbered assets to unsecured debt (UA/UD) ratio
ended 2012 at 385%. Host's unencumbered asset profile has several attractive
features that should enhance their appeal as collateral. The company's hotels
are principally located in key 'gateway' markets that balance sheet lenders tend
to favor. Moreover, its hotels are generally aligned with the strongest brands
in the industry. Finally, Host owns some of the largest and most valuable hotels
in the U.S., which should allow it to raise secured debt capital quickly and in
size, if needed.
Fitch projects that Host's fixed charge coverage ratio, which declined to 1.7x
in 2009 from 2.6x in 2008 and rose to 2.2x in 2012, to improve to 3.2x in 2013
and 3.7x in 2014 . In a more adverse case than anticipated by Fitch, coverage
could decline to 2.0x over the next 12-to-24 months, which would be commensurate
with a rating lower than 'BB+'. Fitch defines fixed charge coverage as recurring
operating EBITDA less renewal and replacement capital expenditures, divided by
cash interest expense and capitalized interest.
Industry Cyclicality Reduces Cash Flow Stability
The cyclical nature of the hotel industry is Fitch's primary credit concern
related to Host. Hotels re-price their inventory daily and, therefore, have the
shortest lease terms and least stable cash flows of any commercial property
type. Economic cycles, as well as exogenous events (i.e. acts of terrorism),
have historically caused material declines in revenues and profitability for
The Stable Outlook centers on Fitch's expectation that Host's credit profile
will remain appropriate for the 'BB+' rating through the economic cycles,
barring any significant changes in the company's capital structure plans. The
Stable Outlook also reflects the quality of Host's portfolio and unencumbered
asset coverage that provides good downside protection to bondholders. Host has
access to various sources of capital and maintains a solid liquidity profile,
moderate leverage, consistent coverage of fixed charges, and solid unencumbered
The following factors may result in positive momentum in the ratings and/or
--Achieving leverage of roughly 3x, which Fitch views as adequate cushion to
maintain leverage below 5x during a lodging cycle downturn.
--Host maintaining a significant pool of unencumbered assets;
--Sustaining fixed charge coverage above roughly 3x, which Fitch views as
adequate cushion to maintain coverage above 2x during a lodging cycle downturn.
The following factors may result in negative momentum on the ratings and/or
--Fitch's expectation for leverage to sustain above 5.0x;
--Fitch's expectation for fixed charge coverage sustaining below 1.5x.
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. The ratings above
were unsolicited and have been provided by Fitch as a service to investors.
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
--'Criteria for Rating U.S. Equity REITs and REOCs', Feb. 26, 2013;
--'Corporate Rating Methodology', Aug. 8, 2012;
--'Parent and Subsidiary Rating Linkage', Aug. 8, 2012;
--'Recovery Ratings and Notching Criteria for Equity REITs', Nov. 12, 2012.
Applicable Criteria and Related Research
Criteria for Rating U.S. Equity REITs and REOCs
Corporate Rating Methodology
Parent and Subsidiary Rating Linkage
Recovery Ratings and Notching Criteria for Equity REITs