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TheStreet Open House

Hotel Investors Pack Up

Worries about the credit crunch and an economic slowdown are lodged into the minds of hotel investors.

The credit crunch has pressured the companies' asset values, and a weakening economy may cut profits over the next year. That has led real estate investors to wonder just how much profit power hotel owners and operators will have over the next year.

Marriott (MAR), one of the world's largest hotel operators, saw its shares fall nearly 5% Thursday after the company gave a disappointing earnings outlook for next year.

Marriott said it expects earnings per share of $2.10 to $2.25 in 2008, lower than the average analyst forecast of $2.30, according to Thomson Financial. The estimates are based on 5% to 7% growth in revpar, or revenue per available room, next year.

The Bethesda, Md., company also projected that fourth-quarter earnings for this year would be 61 cents to 63 cents a share, below analysts' mean estimate of 68 cents.

Marriott's tepid outlook "continues to suggest the (hotel) operating cycle is intact, albeit decelerating," says John Arabia, the lodging analyst at Green Street Advisors, an independent research firm that focuses on real estate stocks.

Arabia says the market is concerned about how much the broader economy's weakness -- particularly within financial services firms -- will affect the hotel industry. Financial firms, in particular, are major business-travel customers that have absorbed hotel room rate increases in recent years.

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