Hotel companies may not be earning any points with Wall Street this year, but many analysts expect 2011 will hold rich rewards.
In quarterly reports this month, the largest lodging companies are likely to signal that revenue per available room could fall slightly in 2010. Still, companies are likely to stress that the declines are slowing in this key industry measure known as revPAR.
Industry analysts and data companies expect revPAR to fall 1.1 percent to 3.2 percent from 2009, when it dropped a record 16.7 percent. This suggests that hotel operators still have a way to go to recover from the severe recession and drop in corporate travel spending.
What investors are going to be watching for is color on just how much 'less bad' it is out there, said Robert W. Baird analyst David Loeb, who rates the sector underweight. Some investors may lose patience with hotels as a recovery story.
In the last quarterly earnings season, Marriott International
Your margin comparisons get tougher because the industry was so early cutting costs, said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Rod Petrik. If all of a sudden revPAR is down 3 percent and expenses are flat, your (earnings are) still down another 8 to 10 percent this year.
The Dow Jones U.S. hotel index <.DJUSLG> has nearly doubled since March, while the S&P 500 <.SPX>, which hit a 12-year low in that month, is up about 65 percent.
We expect management teams to attempt to temper expectations, given the present trading levels which forecast significant growth, Oppenheimer & Co analyst David Katz said in a research note. We believe this could pressure the stocks through reporting season.
RICH REWARDS IN 2011
Starwood will release its quarterly scorecard on Thursday, and analysts on average expect the company to post a profit of 22 cents per share. StarMine SmartEstimates shows it could beat consensus estimates by 2.7 percent.
StarMine data show Marriott, which reports next week, is also likely to surpass analysts' earnings expectations of 25 cents per share by 3 percent.
Choice Hotels International
Industry revenues fell about 14 percent in 2009 to $122.9 billion and are likely to remain flat in 2010, according to an analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP released in January.
Over the past 18 months, hotels responded to the downturn by closing restaurants, rooms and trimming services, such as newspaper delivery. This has left little to cut this year.
Analysts expect expenses to rise slightly in 2010 to account for higher healthcare costs and management bonuses.
Still, many say investors who stick around for 2011 will benefit handsomely. This is due in part to the sluggish growth in new rooms projected for the next two years, which could help hotel operators command higher rates.
We may have a very long supply growth holiday, Baird's Loeb said. That will create an environment where there is ample pricing power.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)