Marriott said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in March came in at $1.41 per share, up 5.22% from the same period last year and firmly ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $1.34. Group revenues were essentially flat at $5.012 billion, Marriott noted, but came in modestly shy analysts' forecasts of $5.11 billion.
Revenue per available room, or RevPar, a key industry metric to gauge profitability, rose 1.1% globally and 0.8% in North America as the hotelier added 19,000 new rooms over the three month period. Looking into 2019, Marriott sees RevPar growth of between 1% and 3% in North America and full-year earnings between $5.97 and $6.19 per share, around 10 cents ahead of the Refinitv forecast at the higher end.
"Marriott's performance in the first quarter was solid," said CEO Arne Sorenson. "Despite modest RevPAR growth and higher labor costs, we increased North American house profit margins by 30 basis points and held worldwide house profit margins flat at our company-operated hotels through cost synergies, leading to strong incentive management fee performance in the quarter."
"We continue to build our company for the future. In the first quarter, we opened our 7,000th property, the 27-story St. Regis Hong Kong," he added. "Year-over-year gross room openings accelerated to nearly 19,000 rooms, a first quarter record. Our development pipeline totaled approximately 475,000 rooms at quarter-end, nearly 3 percent higher than a year ago. Marriott Bonvoy membership rose by 5 million to reach nearly 130 million members."
Marriott shares fell 4.36% at the start of trading Friday to change hands at $129.31 each, a move that still leaves the stock with an S&P 500-beating gain of 19.1% since the start of the year.
Earlier this month, rival Hilton Worldwide Holdings (HLT - Get Report) posted stronger-than-expected first quarter earnings and lifted its full-year profit outlook as new hotel openings added 10,000 new rooms and drove solid revenue gains.
Hilton also said it sees RevPar rising between 1% and 3% from last year, with net income of between $881 million and $910 million and operating earnings in a range of $2.265 to $2.305 billion.