shares rose nearly 2% after Bear Stearns upgraded the company on a the basis of a series of positive meetings with company management.
Bear Stearns analyst Mark Abramson upgraded the upscale hotel chain to outperform from peer perform and set an end-of-2005 price target of $71, implying better than 20% upside over the next 18 months. In reaction, shares of the company rose $1.07 to $58.83.
After meeting with senior executives on Wednesday, Abramson -- who was initially bearish on the company -- said he came away impressed with management's focus and deep pipeline.
"The development pipeline is even deeper than we had previously believed," said Abramson, in his note. "There are 26 projects officially in development and which have been named by the company. Management indicated there are as many as 50 to 60 more hotels that are in advanced stages." (Bear Stearns does and seeks to do business with the companies covered in its research reports.)
Originally, the analyst said he had expected about 40 hotels to be in an advanced stage of development, but with as many as 86 hotels in the pipeline, the analyst concluded, "the growth outlook for Four Seasons is assured for many years to come. Management indicates they can roll out six to eight hotels per year."
With 11 hotels opening this year and more coming online in the years ahead, Bear Stearns estimates the company can grow the number of hotel rooms by a compounded annual growth rate of 10% for the next decade.
Wall Street has recently upgraded other hotel groups on the strength of the U.S. economic reovery.
, in particular, has become something of a Wall Street darling. It was upgraded by two brokers on consecutive days earlier this month. Marriott shares Friday rose 6 cents to $50.03, near their 52-week high of $51.50.