Hilton mulls Waldorf Astoria sale

Is New York's Waldorf Astoria for sale? Hilton Worldwide during its fourth-quarter earnings call intimated as much. And it could be a full or partial sale, said Hilton Worldwide CEO Chris Nassetta.

"We may look to reposition the hotel," Nassetta said. "We are still deciding on how we may reposition it and who we may reposition it with. Part of this would require capital, so we would look at the option of selling all or a stake in the hotel."

Hilton is considering residential, office and retail uses for the 1,232-room Park Avenue property, near Grand Central Terminal, Nassetta added.

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Nikhil Bhalla, an analyst at FBR & Co. in Arlington, Va., told Crain's that the size of the hotel has actually hindered Hilton's ability to charge luxury-level rates. Rooms currently start at around $279 per night.

"There will always be the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, but it may include other uses," Nassetta said. Any sale would require Hilton to remain as the operator.

Like other hotel operators, Hilton may look to sell addiitonal owned assets over the next couple of years, Nassetta said, adding he'd rather sell real estate in a portfolio transaction in lieu of single-property deals.

Hilton reported fourth-quarter earnings yesterday, and said that total revenues in the quarter were $2.6 billion compared with $2.3 billion at the same time last year. Net income though declined to $26 million, compared with $61 million a year prior.

Hilton said it incurred $306 million of pre-tax general, administrative and other expenses as a result of the conversion of private company share-based compensation into stock in connection with its initial public offering.

For the year, Hilton posted revenue of $9.7 billion compared with $9.2 billion in 2012. Net earnings for 2013 rose to $415 million compared with $352 million a year ago.



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