Skift Take

Now the question is: Who will buy it, and does the company name happen to end with “riot”?

Belmond, the luxury hospitality company perhaps best known for its former association with the Orient-Express banner, is exploring a possible sale.

The company, which consists of 46 luxury hotels, restaurant, train and river cruise properties, announced on Wednesday that its board is exploring “strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value.” In other words, the company is looking for potential buyers, assisted by heavyweight Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

“The board is committed to pursuing a path that is in the best interests of all Belmond shareholders. Accordingly, we are conducting a robust review of the full range of strategic, operational and financial alternatives available to the company, including a possible sale,” Roland Hernandez, chairman of the Belmond board of directors, said in a statement.

Belmond’s stock jumped 17 percent in after-hours trading Wednesday following the announcement.

“We have made meaningful progress toward our long-term strategic goals, including growing earnings, increasing brand awareness, and expanding our global footprint. We believe that now is the right time to conduct a strategic review process in order to enhance value for shareholders, given Belmond’s truly exceptional and unique collection of iconic owned properties and strong fundamentals in our markets around the world.”

The company didn’t divulge a timeline for the review process, but if its second quarter earnings are any indication, it’s clear the company needs to do something to keep shareholders happy.

For the second quarter, released Wednesday with its sale news, Belmond reported a net loss of $1.5 million, which was lower than the $4.9 million loss that it saw in the second quarter of 2017. Belmond also recorded impairment charges of $7.1 million across its two businesses in Myanmar, which suffered from reduced visitor arrivals to the country.

In a statement regarding Belmond’s earnings, chief executive officer Roeland Vos, said: “While constant currency RevPAR [revenue per available room] came in at the low end of the range we had targeted, adjusted EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization] grew 6 percent versus the prior-year period, or 11 percent on a reported basis.”

Belmond has a treasure trove of iconic and unique assets spread out across the world, including the Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, and the famous ‘21’ Club restaurant in New York.

When considering the list of possible buyers for Belmond, the list is long. But a likely candidate would be Hyatt Hotels Corporation, who recently had its hopes of acquiring Spanish hotel chain NH Hotel Group dashed. If Hyatt were to pursue an acquisition of Belmond, it would no doubt look to sell off Belmond’s real estate assets.

During Hyatt’s second quarter earnings conference call with investors, CEO Mark Hoplamazian said “we are focused on acquisitions and investments that, first and foremost, help expand our presence in distribution in places where we are underrepresented and secondly … investments that are accretive to earnings but also, asset-light in nature.”

And while Marriott is still in the process of integrating its massive $13.3 billion purchase of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson also said the company would still consider buying more. “We will continue to look at opportunities that are available,” Sorenson said Tuesday during Marriott’s second quarter earnings call.

He also noted in his prepared remarks that the company is increasingly focusing more on the luxury end of hospitality. “Our luxury brands alone represent 11 percent of our pipeline,” Sorenson said.

Other potential suitors include InterContinental Hotels Group, which recently closed its 51-percent acquisition of Regent Hotels & Resorts and has expressed an interest in building up its luxury brands and inventory. Or perhaps Minor International, the company currently closing in on its pursuit of NH Hotel Group.

And then, of course, there’s also the ever-acquisitive AccorHotels, who just announced a luxury hotel brand investment in 21 c Museum Hotels last month. Earlier this year, AccorHotels bought into the Orient-Express brand in an effort to reinvent it.

Perhaps, prophetically, former Belmond chief operating officer Filip Boyen told Skift earlier this year: “I hope [AccorHotels] will buy Belmond. Belmond needs to get off the table.” Boyen said he told an AccorHotels official the other day, “Instead of creating your own Orient-Express brand, why don’t you just buy Belmond and rebrand it back to Orient-Express? That will solve your problem in one full sweep.”

A week later after speaking to Boyen, Skift asked that official, Chris Cahill, AccorHotels CEO of luxury brands and hotel services for North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, whether his company might buy Belmond and rebrand it Orient-Express as Boyen suggested. At the time, his answer was a polite “no,” but this week’s news may change that assessment.

Belmond is hosting a conference call to discuss its second quarter earnings Thursday and no doubt this will be a topic of discussion.

Skift Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comments from former Belmond COO Filip Boyen. An earlier version of this story misattributed his title as CEO.

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Tags: belmond, hyatt, marriott

Photo credit: The Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy, is one of Belmond's many iconic properties. Belmond

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