M&A heats up again as Carlson explores options for hotel unit

Carlson, the owner of the Radisson and Country Inns and Suites hotel brands, among others, is reportedly considering "strategic alternatives" for its hotel unit that could include a sale. According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited "people familiar with the matter," the company has engaged Morgan Stanley to help it explore the possibility of a merger, partnership or sale of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has more than 1,370 hotels either open or under development in more than 110 countries and territories. In 2014, it had a 4.1 percent increase in systemwide revenue totaling $7.8 billion and gross room revenue up to $4.8 billion, but this is far below the revenue generated by its business travel management arm Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which had systemwide revenue of $27.3 billion in 2014.

Kirby Payne, president of HVS Hotel Management, told the Star Tribune that the company does not have many real estate assets, but its franchise and management agreements have value. He said he believes that Carlson is more likely to sell the brands than to follow the Marriott/Starwood or AccorHotels/FRHI model and partner with another company.

Last year, Radisson ranked second from the bottom and below average in customer satisfaction out of the upscale hotels tracked by market research group J.D. Power and Associates.

Carlson declined to comment.