* Fourth-quarter revenue $1.51 bln vs est. $1.53 bln
* Adjusted earnings $0.73/shr vs est. $0.70
* RevPAR from Asia, excluding China, falls 3 pct
* Expects first-quarter earnings $0.53-$0.56/share
* Shares fall as much as 5 pct
By Sagarika Jaisinghani
Feb 13 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc
forecast first-quarter revenue below analysts'
estimates, mainly due to a slow Asian economy and a strong U.S.
Starwood's shares fell as much as 5 percent after the owner
of the Sheraton and Westin hotel chains also reported a drop in
fourth-quarter revenue and did not say if it had bought back
shares in January.
An austerity drive by China's government and slow economic
activity in the rest of Asia are weighing on U.S. hoteliers'
results. Chief Financial Officer Vasant Prabhu said on a
conference call That anti-government protests in Thailand
"significantly" hurt Starwood's business in January, while the
company's performance in India was weak and will likely stay
that way until after the general elections later this year.
A severe winter in the United States that delayed travel and
a slight dip in consumer sentiment in January are also expected
to hit hotel operators in the current quarter.
Hotel occupancy rates have dropped sharply in central
Bangkok, where street protests began in November aimed at
removing the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck
Shinawatra. Starwood runs a Westin hotel and a Sheraton hotel
close to one of the main protest sites at Asoke, making access
for cars and tourist buses difficult.
Starwood ranks fourth among leading hotel brands in Thailand
- behind Accor SA, Centara and Marriott
International Inc - with just over 2 percent market
share in 2012, according to Euromonitor.
The Thai Hotel Association said earlier this month that
occupancy rates in the capital were hovering at around 50
percent, well below the usual 80 percent at this time of year -
particularly as 2013 was a record year for tourists with more
than 26 million visitors. Tourist arrivals last month were about
1 million, half the number in December.
Growth in tourism, which accounts for about a tenth of
Thailand's GDP, more than halved to 10.7 percent in the fourth
quarter year-on-year from a 26.1 percent jump in July-September.
Online travel agency Orbitz Worldwide Inc forecast
current-quarter revenue below analysts' estimates on Thursday.
Starwood said its revenue per available room (RevPAR) -
a metric of hotel health, calculated by multiplying a hotel's
average daily room rate by its occupancy rate - rose almost 8
percent at company-operated hotels in North America in January.
Hyatt Hotels Corp is scheduled to report results on
Friday, while Marriott and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc
are expected to report over the next few weeks.
JP Morgan analyst Joseph Greff said Starwood was slowing the
pace of its share buybacks. The company bought back $78.6
million in shares in the fourth quarter, and Greff estimated
that $2.7 million of that was repurchased between Oct. 24 and
"The real disappointment is in the lack of buybacks in the
(fourth quarter)," he said.
Starwood returned more than $500 million to shareholders in
2013 through stock buybacks and dividends, roughly similar to
2012. In contrast, Marriott returned over $1.3 billion to
shareholders in 2012.
Starwood forecast first-quarter profit of 53-56 cents per
share, well below the average analyst estimate of 63 cents per
share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"There's limited visibility across the lodging business and
as such, we believe conservative guidance at this point is
prudent," MLV & Co analyst Ryan Meliker wrote in a note.
Starwood's RevPAR from hotels open at least one year in
Asia, excluding China, dipped 3 percent in the fourth quarter.
Excluding currency changes, RevPAR rose 8 percent in Asia,
excluding China, CEO Frits van Paasschen said.
Total revenue fell 1.8 percent to $1.51 billion in the
quarter, just shy of the average analyst estimate of $1.53
billion. Net income fell to $128 million, or 67 cents per share,
from $142 million, or 72 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, Starwood earned 73 cents per share, above
the 70 cents per share analysts had expected.
Starwood shares last traded down 2.24 percent at $75.36 on
Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has gained
more than a fifth in the past 12 months, in line with the Dow
Jones U.S. Hotels index.