Marriott International Inc , operator of Marriott, Residence Inn and Ritz-Carlton hotels, posted a higher second-quarter profit on Wednesday, helped by a rise in room rates in North America.

Roughly three-quarters of hotels under Marriott's flagship brand saw their room rates rise in the second quarter.

North American company-operated hotels-- which make up about one-third of Marriott's overall portfolio-- saw rates rise 1.2 percent, the first rise in nearly two years.

Corporate demand is stronger, Laura Paugh, senior vice president of investor relations, said in an interview. We're having to discount less in order to get business into the hotel.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based hotelier posted earnings of $119 million, or 31 cents per share, for the second quarter ended June 18. A year ago, the company reported net income of $37 million, or 10 cents per share.

The company -- the largest U.S. hotel company by market value-- earlier forecast earnings between 25 cents and 29 cents per share.

Revenue for the quarter was $2.8 billion, up 8.2 percent from $2.6 billion a year ago and roughly even with analyst expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total expenses rose 3.3 percent to $2.5 billion.

In the second quarter, revenue per available room for the company's hotels worldwide rose 8.5 percent.

Marriott shares were flat in after-hours trading at $32.35. The stock is up 18 percent so far this year.

Many of Marriott's company-operated hotels in North America are in urban markets, which have seen faster improvement than hotels in suburban locations.

In the third quarter, Marriott projects its revPAR will increase between 6 percent and 8 percent worldwide. For the full-year, Marriott sees this metric rising between 4 percent and 6 percent worldwide.

Combined with productivity improvements achieved over the last year, strong unit growth and increasing demand, we look forward to growing cash flow and strong earnings in 2010 and beyond, Chief Executive J.W. Marriott, Jr said in release.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; editing by Bernard Orr and Andre Grenon)