Planning a trip out of town anytime soon?
If you plan on spending time in a hotel during your trip, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in a Marriott (MAR) hotel room.
Why? Simple math: Marriott now controls over one million hotel rooms worldwide, making it the only hotelier to control that many hotel rooms.
Not only in rooms, but in properties: 5,500 of them.
Is Marriott as good for your portfolio as it is for your hotel options? And is it the only play to make in the hotel space?
Let’s take a look…
Founded in 1927 by J. Willard Marriott and his wife Alice, Marriott began as a nine-stool A&W Root Beer
stand in Bethesda, Maryland.
The stand expanded into the Hot Shoppes Restaurant chain, and Marriott reached into the hotel business with his first motor lodge located in Crystal City, Virginia in 1957.
The Marriott family essentially ran the company since it’s inception. Its first non-family CEO, Arne M. Sorenson, was named CEO in 2011 and remains at the helm.
Today, you know Marriott’s brands not only through its Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, Marriott Courtyard, and SpringHill Suites, but also its luxury hotels.
Surprise: Marriott owns and runs Renaissance Hotels, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts, and the Ritz-Carlton franchise.
It all adds up to a $13.8 billion in annual (December 2014) revenue giant that has, despite a slowdown in the travel industry, managed to increase year-over-year revenues annually since 2012.
Marriott has also improved its bottom line each year, growing from $1.62 per share in diluted normalized earnings to $2.53 per share.
Marriott has also seen its cash flow soar over the same period: Today’s $490 million (after capital expenditures) is up over 2013’s $457 million and 2012’s $236 million.
It’s that cash flow that has helped grow Marriott’s dividend from 17 cents per share quarterly in 2013 to today’s 25 cents per share quarterly.
And Marriott’s 5-year return to shareholders? A very cool 85% over the past 5-year span.
So it’s going very well for Marriott, which makes you wonder why on earth Marriott is making the move to buy Starwood?
Marriott’s Reach Grows
Here’s the full shareholder press release, but in a nutshell, Marriott believes it can deliver over $200 million in cost savings from the merger.
Starwood earnings are expected to be accretive almost immediately, and perhaps most importantly, it will expand Marriott’s brands considerably across the price-point and lifestyle spectrum
Starwood’s brands include Westin Hotels and Resorts, Sheraton, Aloft, W Hotels, the St. Regis, and Le Meridien. Thus, the purchase essentially makes Marriott the who’s who choice for travelers.
It all looks so simple, like such a no-brainer idea, but now comes the hard part for Marriott stockholders…
News of the purchase didn’t quite punish Marriott stock, but it didn’t give it much of a bump, either.
MAR shares are down fractionally over the past week or so of trading, while HOT shares are down almost 2.50% during the same period.
However, the situation may be turning a bit of a corner. Financial Magazin reports that all five analysts they polled covering MAR stock rate it a “Buy.”
Still, it’s a bit of a small sample set, and the jury is still out, deliberating the details in the offer and the pro-forma financials MAR analysts are churning out to investment bankers.
As for the rest of the sector, Hyatt (H), Choice Hotels (CHH) and Hilton (HLT), among others, will play a bit of a wait-and-see game. Only Choice saw a stock bump on the Marriott/Starwood news, with Hilton heading down over 3%, and Hyatt about even.
You can certainly shop rooms and stock for any and all, however size and choice matters, and a one-stop travel shop like Marriott is going to be hard to beat over time.
Along with booking Marriott for that room on your next business or vacation trip, put in an order to purchase the stock, too.
Marriott’s trailing 12-month p/e of just under 24 times earnings may feel a bit rich, and its forward p/e dips to around 19 times expected 2016 earnings. As the company moves to find those efficiencies, expect its 30% profit margin to come under a bit of strain.
However, investors can wait for Marriott to straighten on the kinks…
With over $135 billion in operating cash and $95 million in cash on the balance sheet, and a dividend payout ratio under 30%, you’ll get paid to take your time and have another cocktail while sunning at any one of those Caribbean Ritz-Carltons.
Take advantage of it and hold on to—or increase—your stake in Marriott.
This post originally appeared in MainStreetInvestor.com.