Skift Take

Now it's just a wait-and-see approach to see who will snap up Belmond's treasure trove of luxury assets.

For luxury hospitality company Belmond, letting the market know you might be up for sale has proven to be a boon.

On August 8, London-based Belmond announced it was exploring a possible sale of the company. Since the announcement, Belmond’s share price has steadily risen from $11.15 a share on August 8 to $17.55 a share on November 6.

During the company’s third quarter earnings call, however, executives remained tightlipped about the possibility of selling the company, or its valuable hotel assets that include some of the world’s premier luxury properties. Yet the quarterly results showed improvement on greater brand awareness, executives said.

Belmond Chairman Roland Hernandez did say this about a potential sale: “We’re encouraged by the interest third parties have shown as we conduct our review of strategic alternatives, which as previously communicated, includes a possible sale of the company” and later described the process as “ongoing and robust.”

Rumored interested parties in buying Belmond’s assets or brand include Hilton, Hyatt, and private equity giant Blackstone Group. During Hilton’s most recent third quarter earnings call, however, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta seemed to suggest that Hilton was an unlikely suitor for the Belmond brand.

Brand-Driven Boost?

Belmond’s somewhat better-than-expected third quarter earnings also appear to have picked up on that momentum from a sale.

Belmond reported third quarter earnings of $12.6 million, compared to $7.8 million in the same period last year. Revenues totaled $193.2 million, in line with most analyst estimates of close to $195.5 million. Same-store revenue per available room was up 6 percent, and total RevPAR grew 8.9 percent.

According to company executives, this boost in numbers was attributable primarily to the improving strength of the Belmond brand. What’s more, investments and changes in revenue management systems helped earnings— that were not related to the possibility of a sale., executives said.

Differentiating the Belmond brand among an increasingly crowded luxury hospitality landscape has been a primary objective for the company for some time. Complicating matters further is the fact that the company was formerly known as Orient-Express Hotels until 2014.

“The key driver of our performance and an essential component of our future growth projection is, of course, the brand,” said Roeland Vos, Belmond CEO, noting the launch of Belmond’s newest global brand campaign, The Art of Gastronomy, which was launched in September.

Vos also said that the company saw a 14 percent increase in business to its website in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, and that direct bookings to its site have driven online revenues up by 14 percent.

Vos, along with Hernandez, both emphasized that despite the company’s exploration of strategic alternatives, it’s still “business as usual” when it comes to operating the company and improving its bottom line after a number of quarters with less-than-impressive numbers.

In the second quarter of 2018, for example, Belmond reported a net loss of $1.5 million and in the second quarter of 2017, it saw a net loss of $4.9 million.

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Tags: belmond, earnings

Photo credit: Belmond's Andean Explorere is one of a number of luxury train assets that the company has. Belmond

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