Marriott profits fall 17 percent in latest quarter

Profits tumbled 17 percent at Marriott International during the fourth quarter as revenue fell 14 percent.

The Bethesda-based hotel company said a shorter fourth-quarter — 92 days in 2013 compared with 112 days the year before — contributed to its lower earnings.

For the fourth-quarter, Marriott posted a profit of $151 million, or 49 cents per share, down from $181 million, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier. Meanwhile, revenue fell 14 percent to $3.22 billion from $3.76 billion in the same period.

Revenue per available room, a key industry measure, rose 5.1 percent during the fourth quarter.

The Washington area, meanwhile, was a mixed bag for the company. Revenue per available room at hotels in downtown Washington rose 4 percent during the fourth quarter, as business travel continued to pick up. In nearby suburbs, however, that metric was down 10 percent during the same period.

“The suburbs were hit a lot harder by sequestration and by the government shutdown,” Laura Paugh, senior vice president of investor relations, said in an interview. “The Bethesda area and Northern Virginia, in particular, were hit by both of those things.”

Group bookings in the District were “very strong” during the fourth quarter, Paugh said.

“I wish we didn’t have the government issues in D.C.,” Paugh said. “But all things being equal, the downtown area is holding up.”

Marriott has aggressively acquired new properties and begun building new ones during the past year, adding nearly 26,000 new rooms in 2013. There are another 195,000 rooms currently in the pipeline to open later.

“[This] was a year of firsts,” Arne M. Sorenson, president and chief executive of Marriott, said in a statement. “We signed contracts with owners and franchisees for 67,000 new rooms, the most productive year in our history averaging more than one hotel every day.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section.
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