No Reservations About the Strength of Marriott

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Some businesses just emanate a feeling of trust and quality. They are typically family-owned, have been doing more or less the same thing for decades, and have names you've known your whole life. These are companies that are not going to shock you from quarter to quarter, or even year to year. These are companies that will sit in your portfolio and earn stable returns for as long as you want.

An extended stay for your portfolio
Though the hospitality industry is very vulnerable to macroeconomic factors and the state of the world, I believe some organizations have the foundation to ride out nearly any economic event. Marriott International (NYS: MAR) is one such company. Marriott is one of the most iconic hotel brands in the world. Until recently, the CEO has always been someone with the last name Marriott, though there have only been three CEOs since the company's inception 85 years ago. The company has paid out a dividend every single year in the same time period. Marriott's portfolio of hotel brands is a big one:

  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts 
  • JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts 
  • Renaissance Hotels & Resorts 
  • EDITION Hotels 
  • Autograph Collection 
  • Courtyard 
  • AC Hotels by Marriott 
  • Residence Inn 
  • Fairfield Inn 
  • Marriott Conference Centers 
  • TownePlace Suites 
  • SpringHill Suites 
  • Marriott Vacation Club International 
  • The Ritz-Carlton 
  • Marriott ExecuStay 
  • Marriott Executive Apartments

The company has made a steady and impressive recovery from the recession, and sees brighter travel numbers in the future. On a recent conference call, CEO Arne Sorenson cited increased levels of business-related travel as well as an increase in vacation bookings. Marriott is represented all over the world, from the Ritz Carlton in Dubai to the Residence Inn in Jackson, Tennessee.


A spin-win
In November of 2011, Marriott spun off its timeshare business -- something I think is a wise move. For one, spinoffs are often the best way to realize value in both the spun-off company and the parent. The spinoff, Marriott Vacations Worldwide (NYS: VAC) , is a less appealing business, based on valuation and growth prospects, but separating the two companies has allowed Marriott International to focus on core operations: opening and managing new hotels around the world.

An emerging market no-brainer
Though the U.S. is showing improving travel statistics, the real growth for Marriott is found abroad. The company is on track for 85,000 new rooms in Europe by 2015. Latin American and Caribbean hotel offerings are set to double, as well as in the Middle East and Africa. The company is rapidly expanding in all four members of the BRIC group. Say what you will about European debt crises, but companies like Siemens and EADS are fast-growing European organizations with a massive number of employees who need places to stay all over Europe and the rest of the world. Marriott offers investors international exposure with the safety and comfort of a family-run, reliable American business.

The competition
The hotel industry is arguably a commodity business. That means that customers can be more inclined to choose based on the lowest price, rather than brand affiliation. I believe Marriott carries strong enough brand power, especially among higher-end hotels (e.g., Ritz-Carlton), to avoid this problem, though there are competitors worth noting.

For example, Home Inns and Hotel Management (NYS: HMIN) is a China-based hotelier. In typical Chinese fashion, the company has grown over the years at a startling rate and beat expectations again and again. Based on a forward P/E of around 16, Home Inns is slightly cheaper than Marriott, whose forward P/E hovers around 19. But with Chinese growth slowing dramatically, and the volatility investors have experienced with Chinese stocks, Marriott appears to be a much more stable investment for the long-term investor.

Foolish bottom line
Marriott's second-quarter earnings are coming out on July 11, and I am expecting pleasing numbers. As a rule, quarterly earnings announcements are nothing to get too excited or depressed about, but it's still worth taking a look to pick up a nugget of information here or there.

Keep a look out for overall travel statistics, as these will directly impact the near-term future of Marriott. With the aforementioned 85,000 new rooms on the horizon in Europe, it's worth keeping an eye on the European business climate.

Marriott is currently flirting with its 52-week high, so it's not a bargain. But with a reliable dividend and truly impressive growth prospects, investors can expect long-term capital appreciation along with quarterly dividend income.

If you have further interest in companies with great exposure to emerging markets, our analysts have identified some great picks. The report is free, and suggests three American companies that are poised to profit off of growing middle classes abroad. Click here to read it.

At the time this article was published

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