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Hilton Posts Surprise Q4 Loss As Pandemic Cripples Global Travel; Shares Slump

Hilton said renewed travel restrictions, particularly in Europe, blunted fourth quarter improvements in other regions and tipped the group into a adjusted loss of 10 cents per share over the final three months of the year.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings  (HLT)  posted a surprise fourth quarter loss Wednesday as a collapse in global travel triggered by the coronavirus pandemic continued to hit the hotel sector over the final months of the year. 

Hilton said its adjusted loss for the three months ending in December were pegged at 10 cents per share, down from a $1 per share profit over the same period last year and a Street consensus forecast of 3 cents per share. Group revenues, Hilton said, fell 62% to $890 million and came in well shy of analysts' estimates of a $1.032 billion tally.

"Our fourth quarter results were largely in line with our expectations as rising COVID-19 cases and tightening travel restrictions disrupted the positive momentum we saw throughout the summer and fall," said CEO Christopher Nassetta. "Yet even with a challenging environment, we celebrated our one million room milestone during the quarter and achieved net unit growth of more than five percent for the year."

"We continued this momentum into 2021 with the opening of our 900th Hilton Garden Inn and the conversion of Oceana Santa Monica, which marked the U.S. debut of LXR," he added. "We expect our industry-leading brands to continue driving new development and conversion opportunities, enabling us to further grow our network and capture a disproportionate share of demand as travel resumes."

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Hilton shares were marked 4% lower in early trading following the earnings release to change hands at $109.20 each, a move that would trim the stock's six-month gain to around 28.5%.