French hotel giant Accor SA (Paris: AC) said Tuesday it will sell its underperforming Motel 6 U.S. budget hotel business to asset manager Blackstone Group LP for $1.9 billion, as part of an effort to cut debt and shift focus from the U.S. to fast-growing emerging markets.
Shares of Accor SA (Paris: AC) gained as much as 8.4 percent in Paris trading. Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX) shares rose 22 cents to $11.92.
This deal will provide Accor with additional resources to address the tremendous growth potential in the Asia-Pacific region, in Latin America and in Europe, Accor CEO Denis Hennequin said in a statement. Accor will remain in North America in the luxury and high-end market with its Sofitel and Novotel brands.
Motel 6, with its budget appeal and we'll leave the light on for you commercials with Alaska raconteur Tom Bodet, helped put the chain on the map but didn't match Accor's high-end approach.
Accor, one of the world's biggest hotel groups, announced in October it plans to open more than 200 new properties in Asia by 2014, as traditional key markets in Europe and the U.S. continue to struggle with sluggish economies and debt crisis.
The sale of 1,102 hotels with 107,347 rooms in the U.S. and Canada includes the Motel 6 chain and Studio 6, an extended-stay economy chain. The division recorded revenue of €532 million (US $679 million) last year, down from €555 million in 2010, and operating profit of €15 million against a €4 million loss in the year-ago period.
This is a business that hasn't performed particularly well over the last 20 years, Deutsche Bank analyst Simon Champion told Reuters. Getting rid of it allows Accor to improve its balance sheet and gives it the possibility of returning cash to shareholders next year.
Accor will take a one-time non-cash hit of €600 million linked to the early buyout of fixed-lease hotels as part of the deal. However, capital raised from the deal will help Accor reduce its debt by about €330 million and lease commitments by €525 million.
Accor said the sale strengthens its economic model and follows its decision to reduce capital employed in Motel 6 and Studio 6, as announced last September.
The transaction would be completed in October, subject to the unwinding of leases and customary closing conditions.
Blackstone, based in New York, bought the Hilton Worldwide hotel chain five years ago, acquired the U.S. Columbia Sussex hotel portfolio in late 2010 and bought the European hotel chain Mint last year.
Jonathan Gray, Blackstone's global real estate head, said in a statement that Blackstone plans to invest significant capital in Motel 6 properties and accelerate the expansion of the franchise base.