Skift Take

This is a good time to go asset-light as Starwood is finding out as it tries to sell the St. Regis in New York and other landmark properties in the run-up to the Marriott takeover.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. may be in talks to sell properties including the St. Regis New York as part of a goal of finding buyers this year for its remaining hotels, valued at $1 billion, Chief Executive Officer Tom Mangas said.

Sovereign-wealth funds and insurance companies continue to have a strong appetite for hotels in gateway cities as they seek to diversify their holdings, Mangas said on Starwood’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call Thursday. He declined to comment in detail when asked about the prospect of selling assets including the St. Regis in Manhattan and the Westin Maui Resort & Spa because talks might be under way, he said.

“There is high interest for assets that are one of a kind, like the St. Regis New York,” Mangas said in response to a question about possible interest in the Fifth Avenue hotel from sovereign-wealth funds and high-net-worth buyers. “I don’t want to comment too much about where valuations are or will be because we might be working on trying to lock down specific valuations.”

Starwood on Tuesday said it completed the sale of the luxury Hotel Imperial in Vienna to Al Habtoor Investment, part of a United Arab Emirates conglomerate, for $78.8 million. On Thursday, Mangas said the price per room was about $571,000, underscoring that values for high-quality hotel properties remain strong.

Last year, Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Capital Group, which isn’t affiliated with Starwood Hotels, sold New York’s luxury Baccarat Hotel to a unit of China’s Sunshine Insurance Group for $230 million, or about $2 million a room, the second-highest price on that basis for a New York hotel, behind the Plaza.

Marriott Takeover

Starwood is on course to complete a planned takeover by Marriott International Inc. by the middle of the year, Mangas said. While market volatility, which has made it harder to raise debt financing, makes a rival offer to Marriott’s unlikely, there’s still a chance an outside bidder could emerge, he said. Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Chinese companies reportedly pursued Starwood before Marriott prevailed with a winning offer in November.

The company is focused on selling North American and European properties, while economic turmoil in Latin America makes sales there more difficult, Mangas said. Starwood has 19 hotels valued at about $800 million left to sell, excluding five worth about $200 million that are part of the planned spinoff of its timeshare business, he said.

The company’s effort to sell the biggest assets “gives us confidence that we can get the extra $800 million of incremental sales,” Mangas said on the call. “We’re down to the short strokes here.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Hui-yong Yu in Seattle at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Taub at [email protected] Christine Maurus, Dan Reichl

This article was written by Hui-yong Yu from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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Tags: asset-light, st. regis, starwood

Photo credit: The Presidential Suite at The St. Regis New York is the second more expensive suite in New York at $35,000. Starwood is looking to sell the hotel among about $1 billion worth of properties on the market. Starwood Hotels & Resorts