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fourth-quarter earnings shot up 25% from a year ago, beating out estimates, and the hotel company guided first-quarter earnings above forecasts.

Marriott earned $237 million, or $1.07 a share, in the quarter, compared with $189 million, or 79 cents a share, last year. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had been forecasting earnings of 98 cents a share in the quarter. Revenue rose 16% from a year ago to $3.64 billion, above the $3.42 billion Thomson First Call consensus.

For the first quarter, Marriott expects to earn 70 cents to 76 cents a share, compared with the Thomson First Call consensus estimate of 70 cents a share. For the year, Marriott sees earnings of $3.08 to $3.18 a share, compared with the $3.06-a-share consensus estimate.

"Strong worldwide economic expansion and impressive lodgingindustry strength continued in the fourth quarter, and Marriott International capitalized on those trends through increasingly favorable financial performance," the company said in a release.

"Across all travel segments, group, business transient and leisure, revenues remained strong in the quarter. Meeting attendance was solid and group spending was robust. Catering revenues rose 13% during the quarter with particularly impressive demand from financial services and pharmaceutical businesses. Business guests continued to fill hotels. Manhattan Revpar rose 16% largely due to a greater mix of corporate rated business and higher room rates. Technology rebounded, driving demand higher in San Francisco and the suburbs of Boston. Business travel to and especially within Asia continues to thrive. In China alone, Marriott currently operates 32 hotels, with 14 properties under construction, and additional projects in the development pipeline."