|Shares Out. (in M):||0||P/E|
|Market Cap (in $M):||450||P/FCF|
|Net Debt (in $M):||0||EBIT||0||0|
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Investing in a hotel stock seems risky right now but the ability to clip an 18% current yield in a well run hospitality REIT seems worth the risk based on my analysis.
LaSalle Hotel Properties, Preferred Stock Series E, 8% Coupon, $25 Par Value, Cumulative, Liquidation Preference, Redeemable at Par
Last Trade 11.06, Current Yield 18%
18% Current Yield
7.6X Debt and Preferred Forward EBITDA Mulitple
Preferred Dividend Coverage of 4.1X after Maintenance Capital Expenditures
Insider buying by CEO, CFO, President and COO, Directors, and Chief Accounting Officer.
High Quality Assets with High Barrier to Entry
20% Exposure to Washington D.C. market
Ability to hedge investment through common stock short
LaSalle Hotel Properties (LaSalle) is a REIT which was formed in 1998 and owns 31 upper-upscale hotels in 14 markets in 11 states and the District of Columbia. In total, it has about 8,400 total rooms. Approximately 54% of its hotels are branded (Marriott, Hilton etc.) while the rest of independently branded. The company has its highest exposure in terms of room count in the following cities: Washington DC (20%), San Diego (15%), Boston (14%), and Chicago (13%). LaSalle is structured as a REIT which enables them to not pay income taxes provided they pay out 90% of their taxable income to shareholders.
There is no secret that the hospitality industry is deteriorating rapidly. The economy is in recession. Corporate spending is plummeting. Business trips are being cancelled, and fewer business trips are being planned. Consumer confidence is shot. The consumer is totally pulling back from discretionary spending which includes vacation travel. For hotel owners like LaSalle, this is an incredibly bad environment. Revenues in the lodging industry will see a substantial decline in 2009 and 2010. The revenue of hotel owners like LaSalle essentially rely upon the occupancy and the daily room rate charged at their hotels. RevPAR is an industry term used to describe the product of the occupancy rate and the average daily room rate (for example a hotel running at 80% occupancy with an average room rate of $100 would have a RevPAR of $80). RevPAR is used to assess the financial performance of a hotel property. Currently, the industry is seeing occupancy go down mid to high single digits and room rates beginning to soften. Industy-wide, this is having the effect of decreasing RevPAR in the order of 7-15% in Q4 2008 and it shows early signs of similar year-over-year weakness in Q1 2009. For 2009, RevPAR estimates are down 6-10% for the industry with the first 3 quarters remaining weak and Q4 benefitting from a weak Q4 2008 comp. Newer and well- run hotels and hotels in urban areas typically see lower RevPAR decline. Demand should be weak for the foreseeable future.
On the supply front, more hotels have been built over the last few years as room supply has increased 2-3 percent. Offsetting the growth, was the high cost to construct new hotels. Urban markets, which LaSalle is concentrated, typically sees less supply growth. Future supply growth is estimated to be muted for years to come.
LaSalle’ Ability to avoid big Industry RevPAR declines—Avoiding Major Revenue Decline
1) Quality Well Run Hotels. LaSalle owned hotels have an strong reputation in the industry for being in excellent condition and well run. Nicer and better run hotels usually perform better in a slower economy,
2) Good Time to Be in D.C. 20% of their EBITDA comes from the Washington D.C. market. Presidential inauguration years typically see a strong uptick in RevPAR in Q1. In a year where there is heavy turnover in the Presidential administration or Congress, the strength in these markets tends to extend to Q2 or Q3. In addition to turnover, the Washington, D.C. market may benefit from an expansion in the government or government spending as more visitors come to the city. 2009 should see a strong boost from these factors.
3) Urban Hotels are better protected from recession. 40% of LaSalle Hotels located within the city in a metropolitan area. Guest are willing to pay a premium to stay in the urban core. Urban hotels have consistently outperform industry-wide RevPAR growth.
4) Independently Branded Hotels Outperform. Nearly 50% of LaSalle’s hotels are independently branded (i.e. not Marriott, Westin, Hilton etc.). These hotels outperform because they office a unique unbranded experience. RevPAR is higher for LaSalle’s independents.
There are several aspects to LaSalle’s business which will enable it to deal with lower RevPAR trends.
1) 1) They’ve done it before. In 2001, RevPAR dropped over 12% while EBITDA margin deteriorated just 260 basis points. They did this largely by reducing costs and operating more efficiently.
2) 2) Nearly 50% of LaSalle’s hotels are Independent Branded Independent hotels allow LaSalle to be more aggressive with cost cuts as opposed to branded because branded hotels have brand standards and are usually less flexible to cost cuts and service levels.
3) 3) Cost Cutting will be taken to a new level. Cost cutting in 2009 is the number one focus. The 2001 cost cuts will be mild compared to what the company has planned in 2009. For starters, the company plans to cut workforce 20% at the hotel level. Personnel costs consist of nearly 50% of operating expenses at the hotels. Brand owners such as Marriott and Hilton are on-board with cost cuts more today than they were in 2001 in terms of relaxing standards at the branded hotels.
4) 4) Efficiency initiatives at full force. In additional to personnel reduction, all hotels have been evaluated and there are numerous cost saving measures which can add up ( for example reducing the hours of restaurants or food service, reducing/eliminating complementary services, shrinking menu size, reducing energy usage etc.)
currently has $963mm in Debt and it consists of $221 million drawn on a senior
unsecured credit facility (with a capacity of $450mm) and $742mm of secured
debt (secured by 12 hotels which comprises 58% of the company’s EBITDA). The effective borrowing rate on the credit
facility is 1 month libor plus 80 basis points (currently 1.50%) which is
attractive. LaSalle has 2 potential
events in 2009 surrounding its debt which should be fairly easily managed. First, they have $70mm in loans coming
due. The average rate on these loans were
over 5% and these loans will most likely be repaid out of the credit
facility. The second issue is to deal
with the potential tripping of the leverage covenant in the credit facility
which stands at 6x. Currently the
company is running at 4.5X but the company may bounce up against in late 2009
if adjusted EBITDA drops to the $160mm level which is far below my 2009 estimate.
I believe that this will not be an issue if it should happen because of
LaSalle’s ability to seek waivers or margin adjustments. Furthermore, LaSalle is in the fortunate
position of having 19 of its hotels or 42% of its EBITDA ($86mm on $205mm in
EBITDA) unencumbered. The company can
issue mortgage loans against these assets and have plenty of liquidity. In today’s market you can borrow 50% of the value
of the hotel on a secured basis. Using
an 8X EBITDA multiple as a value this would enable the company to borrow $344mm
on a secured basis at a rate somewhere in the neighborhood of Libor plus 400-500. Before any desperate act the common dividend
would be eliminated saving about $40mm per year. This may occur early next year. As last resort, LaSalle could also try to
sell assets or equity. The bottom line is that I believe there are many levers that can be pulled before a cut in the preferred.
Cash Flow Analysis and Valuation
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