Skift Take

Blackstone wants to capitalize on the upside of a travel recovery and invest in leisure and hospitality assets, but who doesn’t? There’s a ton of capital waiting on the sidelines competing for potential deals, which may not be that much of an opportunity after prices go up in bidding wars.

Hospitality assets don’t play as big of a role in investor giant Blackstone’s real estate portfolio as they once did.

But a flurry of multibillion-dollar deals over the last few months shows how bullish the firm is in elbowing its way back into the travel orbit.

“We have by far the lowest exposure we’ve had to it, but we’d like to increase that exposure going forward,” said Jonathan Gray, Blackstone’s president and chief operating officer, during an investor call Thursday.

Hospitality assets represent about 7 percent of Blackstone’s real estate portfolio, Gray added. This now includes the recent $6.1 billion joint takeover of Extended Stay America the company finalized this summer with Starwood Capital.

The post-pandemic travel sector is among Blackstone’s “high-conviction thematic areas,” along with sustainability, logistics, digital infrastructure, and housing, Gray said.

The company has nearly $130 billion in “dry powder” capital to invest, according to the company’s second quarter financial documents released Thursday.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to do more in this space and that [the] percentage goes up,” Gray later added of the hospitality portfolio. “We do think people will return to travel — individual and leisure travel first over time [and then] corporate and group travel.”

The company’s focus on the potential upside of hospitality investments during the recovery is the latest in a long line of eager investors waiting for deals to emerge. But while the hotel investor landscape is competitive, Blackstone is one of the most active firms in the sector.

Along with closing on the Extended Stay America acquisition, Blackstone also recently made another sale-leaseback deal with MGM Resorts for a Las Vegas casino resort.

MGM plans to sell its CityCenter complex, comprised of the Aria Resort and Casino and Vdara Hotel and Spa, to Blackstone for $4 billion and lease the complex back for $215 million annually. It follows a string of similar deals in Las Vegas between the two companies, as MGM pursues an asset-light strategy to focus on new ventures like online gaming platforms.

Blackstone purchased the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and the Bellagio Hotel & Casino from MGM Resorts in recent years. MGM continues to operate all of the properties.

Blackstone also has its eyes on the greater travel market, having completed a takeover earlier this year of UK-based holiday and theme park company Bourne Leisure.

“We’re also now starting to see a recovery in some of the areas that were more impacted by the pandemic such as leisure and hospitality,” Gray said before cautioning: “Although, it is still early.”

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Tags: blackstone, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, extended stay america, mgm resorts international

Photo credit: Blackstone wants to beef up its hospitality real estate holdings, which already include the Bellagio (pictured) and other casino resorts in Las Vegas. Max Pixel

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