UPDATE 2-Marriott Int’l beats street; sees higher room rates

* Posts Q1 earnings of 22 cents/share

* Revenue jumps 5.4 percent

* Shares gain 0.5 pct in premarket trade

CHICAGO, April 22 (BestGrowthStock) – Marriott International Inc
(MAR.N: ), the largest U.S. hotel company by market value, posted
a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday, and said
it sees room rates and unit revenue rising this year.

The company, which operates the Marriott, Courtyard and
Residence Inn hotels, said its results were helped by a rebound
in business travel, an important step to recovery for Marriott,
which relies heavily on corporate demand to help set room
rates.

Marriott said it sees North American revenue per available
room (revPAR) increasing in North America between 3 percent and
6 percent.

“In the first quarter we welcomed increasing numbers of
business guests to our hotels as travelers got back to work in
most markets around the world,” said Marriott Chief Executive
J.W. Marriott.

“While first quarter room rates were generally lower than
last year, as occupancy levels continue to improve, we see
higher room rates on the horizon,” he said.

Lodging companies were hurt in 2009 by the slide in
business travel, forcing hotels to cut room rates to attract
more guests. But this week, industry data showed revPAR rose in
March, the first monthly rise since July 2008.

Marriott shares inched up to 0.5 percent to $34.90 in
premarket trade from their Wednesday close of of $34.67 on the
New York Stock Exchange.

The stock has risen about 80 percent since March 2009,
underperforming the surge in the Dow Jones U.S. hotels index
(.DJUSHL: ), which has quadrupled in that time period.

Marriott posted net earnings of $83 million, or 22 cents,
compared with a net loss of $23 million, or 6 cents per share,
a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, expected Marriott to post earnings of
about 20 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters
I/B/E/S.

“While most investors will be neutral on the
(first-quarter) beat as expectations were high, we believe they
will look favorably on 2010 full-year North American revPAR
guidance,” said FBR Capital Markets analyst Patrick Scholes in
a research note.

“We see this better than expected outlook as the most
important point provided in the release,” Scholes said.

Revenue rose 5.4 percent to $2.63 billion. The Bethesda,
Maryland-based hotel company’s revPAR for the quarter fell 0.7
percent.

Stock Market News

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson and Deepa Seetharaman; Editing
by Derek Caney, Dave Zimmerman)

UPDATE 2-Marriott Int’l beats street; sees higher room rates