Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc. ( AHT) Q4 2011 Earnings Call February 23, 2012 11:00 am ET Executives Scott Eckstein - IR Monty Bennett - CEO Douglas Kessler - President David Kimichik - CFO Analysts David Loeb - Robert W. Baird Patrick Scholes - FBR Capital Markets Robin Farley - UBS Smedes Rose - Keefe Bruyette & Woods Presentation Operator
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In addition, certain terms used in this call are non-GAAP financial measures, reconciliations of which are provided in the company’s earnings release and accompanying tables or schedules, which have been filed on Form 8-K with the SEC on February 22, 2012, and may also be accessed through the company’s website at www.ahtreit.com. Each listener is encouraged to review those reconciliations provided in the earnings release together with all other information provided in the release.I will now turn the call over to Monty Bennett. Please go ahead, sir. Monty Bennett Thank you, and good morning. I’m pleased to report on our record setting performance. Our AFFO per share of $0.42 was our strongest fourth quarter in our history and our eighth consecutive quarterly AFFO per share increase. For the full year, AFFO per share of $1.86 was also our highest ever reported and reflects 24% growth over last year. The 2011 AFFO marks seven out of eight years of record AFFO per share performance and demonstrates that our strategies to maximize returns while mitigating risks continued to create shareholder value. Given our record performance and forecast, in December we increase Ashford’s 2012 dividend guidance by 10%. We expect to distribute a quarterly cash dividend of $0.11 per common share or $0.44 per common share on an annualized basis. Since our last conference call in November, the U.S. economy has continued to show resiliency despite persisting global market concerns. U.S. hotel demand continues to increase with RevPAR growth well above historical average growth rates. Meanwhile, new room supply remains extremely low for the foreseeable future. Clearly, the fundamentals exist for continued improvement in the performance of the lodging REIT. Even in moderate U.S. economic growth should result in higher than average RevPAR growth. The recent forecasts from PTF suggest national RevPAR growth for the next couple of years to be 6.1% to 7.3%. These levels are well above the industry’s 1988 to 2010 average RevPAR growth of 2.5%. On historical basis real RevPAR still remains far below prior peak cycle levels. Given that with each recent cycle, the new real RevPAR peak exceeded the prior peak and it’s expected that the same could occur in this cycle. Since the hotel industry is still in the early stage of this recovery, it remains very good time to invest in lodging REITs.
In particular, we certainly believe that our combined strategic benefits of financial leverage and solid operational performance should position us to outperform our peers over the long run in terms of total shareholder return.We are pleased with the EBITDA flows of 55% margin improvement of 143 basis points for our legacy portfolio. While the total U.S. hotel market RevPAR grew at 7.9% in the fourth quarter, our legacy portfolio RevPAR grew at 5.4%. The reason for this discrepancy lay in the fact that our MSAs modestly underperformed the national average with 7.2% growth but these particular MSAs are upper upscale comp sets further underperformed. Our assets RevPAR growth matched that of our comp sets though. Similarly, in the Highland portfolio, we are very pleased with our EBITDA flows of 97% and margin improvement of 114 basis points. Nationwide airport and urban locations underperformed, which is where the Highland assets are concentrated, and accounts for most of the difference in performance. We do not see this underperformance as a long-term trend. There was also a modest impact due to innovations. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com