Business Travel Boosts Hilton's Profit

Hilton Worldwide (NYSE:HLT) reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings on Friday as it opened thousands of new rooms and pocketed more money per stay.

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The McLean, Va.-based hotel giant nearly tripled net income to $123 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $34 million, or three cents.

Excluding one-time items, Hilton said it earned 13 cents, topping average analyst estimates of nine cents in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue for the three months ended March 31 was $2.34 billion, up from $2.26 billion a year ago and matching Wall Street expectations.

The improvement was driven by a 6.6% increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR) and franchise fees. It also continued to expand its timeshare fleet, with EBITDA expanding by 44% to $85 million.

Citing confidence for the rest of the year, Hilton raised its fiscal 2014 adjusted earnings outlook to between 64 cents and 67 cents, above the consensus view of 60 cents.

CEO Christopher Nassetta said the company sees strong global RevPAR growth with systemwide comparable RevPAR growing by as much as 7%. It also continues its aggressive expansion, opening more than 9,000 new rooms in the first quarter, and getting approved for a total of 15,000.

“We had a strong first quarter that significantly exceeded our expectations,” Nassetta said. “We are very optimistic about the remainder of 2014.”

For the second quarter, it is anticipating non-GAAP EPS between 18 and 20 cents, above the Street’s view of 17 cents.

Shares of Hilton, which raised more than $2.3 billion last December in the biggest-ever hotel initial public offering, were up 3% to $22.64 in early trade.