Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc , operator of the W and Sheraton hotels, posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by increased revenue per available room (revPAR) in North America and Asia Pacific.

The company forecast first-quarter earnings of 22-26 cents a share, while analysts on an average were expecting an earnings of 24 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The hotel operator reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $99 million, or 52 cents per share, compared with an adjusted profit of $95 million, or 51 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 39 cents a share.

North America and Asia Pacific revPAR increased 10.2 percent and 20.3 percent, respectively, in the quarter.

RevPAR, a widely used measure of hotels' financial health, multiplies the property's room rate by its occupancy rate.

Starwood is the first U.S. hotel company to report this quarterly earnings season. Soft lodging demand hurt hotels during the recession but business travel has increased as the economy recovers in the United States, enabling hotels to raise rates.

Shares of Starwood Hotels & Resorts closed at $60.81 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by NR Sethuraman in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal)