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Starwood Hotels Reports Lower Q4 Profit

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide on Thursday reported a drop in fourth quarter profit.

Total revenue fell 1.8 percent to USD$1.51 billion in the quarter. Net income fell to USD$128 million, from USD$142 million a year earlier.

An austerity drive by China's government and slow economic activity in the rest of Asia are weighing on US hoteliers' results. Chief financial officer Vasant Prabhu said anti-government protests in Thailand "significantly" hurt Starwood's business in January, while the company's performance in India was weak and will likely stay that way until after the general elections later this year.

A severe winter in the United States that delayed travel and a slight dip in consumer sentiment in January are also expected to hit hotel operators in the current quarter.

Starwood said its revenue per available room (RevPAR) rose almost 8 percent at company-operated hotels in North America in January.

THAI IMPACT

Hotel occupancy rates have dropped sharply in central Bangkok, where street protests began in November aimed at removing the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Starwood operates a Westin hotel and a Sheraton hotel close to one of the main protest sites at Asoke, making access for cars and tourist buses difficult.

The Thai Hotel Association said earlier this month that occupancy rates in the capital were hovering at around 50 percent, well below the usual 80 percent at this time of year - particularly as 2013 was a record year for tourists with more than 26 million visitors. Tourist arrivals last month were about 1 million, half the number in December.

Growth in tourism, which accounts for about a tenth of Thailand's GDP, more than halved to 10.7 percent in the fourth quarter year-on-year from a 26.1 percent jump in July-September.

(Reuters)