US Hotel Industry Sells Near-Peak Number of Rooms in September
Weekday Occupancy in San Francisco Reaches 88.8% in the Last Week of the Month
October 6, 2023 | 9:29 AM
The U.S. hotel industry finished the month of September strong, with preliminary results indicating room demand was the second-highest ever for the month.
September room demand has been helped by the accelerated recovery of business and group travel, which is evident in weekday occupancy gains, particularly in the top 25 largest U.S. hotel markets.
San Francisco, the slowest of the top 25 markets to recover from the pandemic, posted the highest weekday (Monday-Wednesday) occupancy in the last week of September at nearly 90%. For the full week, San Francisco occupancy was 83.2%. So far in 2023, the market has had two weeks of 80%-plus occupancy; in 2022, it had three weeks above that mark.
CoStar and its hospitality analytics division STR will monitor the market in the coming weeks to assess if there could be a shift in business and group travel sentiment.
San Francisco led the nation with the highest weekday (Monday-Wednesday) occupancy at 88.8%, followed by Louisville at 88.7%.
New Orleans hosted Beyonce’s Renaissance tour Wednesday night, boosting occupancy to 74.7%, but the market still posted the lowest weekday occupancy of any of the top 25 markets at 58.8%.
September 5, 2023 | 9:16 AM
Following clearance by the European Union’s competition authority, The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority via a subsidiary Coral Reef has closed on a deal to acquire a 17-hotel portfolio in Spain.
Business advisory JLL, which brokered the deal for the sovereign wealth fund, said it is a “landmark sale of the largest hotel portfolio in Spain.”
The seller is Spain’s Equity Inmuebles fund, which is majority owned by three Spanish families — the Briones, Calero and Mazin family offices.
In June, Spanish business publication CincoDías said the deal had a price tag of €600 million ($647.5 million). Although in April 2022, CoStar News reported that the business advisory was looking to find a buyer for the portfolio at a guide price of €700 million.
The portfolio consists of full-service hotels in Spain’s most popular tourism destinations, with capital Madrid making up approximately 37% of the total room count, according to a news release.
Probably the most notable hotel in the portfolio is the 192-room ME Madrid Reina Victoria by Meliá, which occupies a 19th century palace on the Plaza de Santa Ana.
Eight of the other hotels are affiliated with brands Meliá and Sol, and the remaining eight are affiliated with Tryp by Wyndham, according to CincoDías' June report.
CincoDías also said the portfolio will be managed by Meliá Hotels Intenational.
The European Union stated the “acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of its limited impact on the market. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.”
“This historic transaction signifies a major milestone in the real estate market. The strong interest from global investors, particularly from the Middle East, who accounted for nearly 50% of transaction volume in Spain as of August 2023, underlines the resilient and appealing nature of the hospitality sector,” said Patrick Saade, JLL’s senior managing director for hotels and hospitality capital markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The Senza Hotel in Napa, California, is one of Pendant Capital's recent acquisitions. (Pendant Capital)
September 11, 2023 | 8:17 AM
Within its first year of operations, Pendant Capital has found success in bringing new investors to the hospitality space while providing sellers a chance to exit.
Launched in January, Pendant Capital is the creation of Les Bentley, managing partner, and David Capps, president and CEO. Bentley was one of the founders of Aimbridge Hospitality, now the world’s largest third-party hotel management company. Capps worked with Bentley at Aimbridge for several years after working at Merrill Lynch Capital in hotel finance.
In an email interview, Bentley said he and Capps have had several conversations over the years with investors who wanted to get into the hospitality segment. Creating Pendant Capital was the founders' way to make it happen.
Bentley said their combined expertise for raising capital and leveraging operations has proven to be a powerful formula. The company already has a robust pipeline.
“Our experience has been that the markets never fully stop, even when there is a broader sense of financial uncertainty, and we continue to strengthen our relationships to be best-positioned to close deals,” he said.
Bentley brings his years of experience in operations and the many owner relationships he has forged over time, Capps said in an interview, adding that he brings his ability to analyze deals and look for risks given his banking background. After Bentley retired from Aimbridge, he created his family office, Bentley Legacy Holdings, in 2013, and the two of them had been looking at ways they could work together on future projects, such as Bentley Legacy acquiring hotels to be operated by Aimbridge.
When the pandemic hit, the situation changed and they saw potential to do something more, Capps said.
“We think there has been, and there's going to be, more opportunities to acquire hospitality real estate but have that more opportunistic approach through operational oversight,” he said.
Pendant is a new venture that Capps and Bentley Legacy own, Capps said. It’s an investment vehicle for the family office going forward. There are some legacy assets held by Bentley Legacy, but in the future, more hotels will be on the Pendant side.
The investors who have invested through Pendant on its first handful of deals are new entrants to the hospitality space, Capps said. They’re not institutional investors, so they’re looking for someone to create wealth for them with expertise in the space.
Capps said he and Bentley worked together to figure out the right time to launch the company. Naturally, when they did, interest rates went up 300 basis points, he said.
On the other hand, it is the right time because the past two deals Pendant completed involved two hotel owners who were looking for an exit, Capps said.
“We’re working with owners,” he said. “We’re providing a solution for them, and that’s an exit. Maybe there’s a delta in the bid and ask, but there’s some structure that we could offer in order to entice them to do a deal.”
All of Pendant’s recent acquisitions have been direct deals, Capps said. The team is talking directly with the owners as going through brokers means paying a higher price. In every case, the seller is an owner/operator.
As an owner with an operational focus, Pendant sees ways to improve margins right away through better positioning with capital-expenditure projects, rebranding and/or more-focused revenue management, he said.
Pendant’s most recent deals involved some degree of seller financing, Capps said. The next two deals underway have the same level of seller financing or assumable debt.
The seller financing has been successful so far because the sellers have felt comfortable with the operational background of Pendant’s leadership, he said.
“If the seller is going to hold some paper on a deal, they want to know that the likelihood of them getting paid back is there,” he said. “They trust that the operational expertise with what we bring in our pedigree is there.”
The sellers in Pendant’s previous two deals built and owned their hotels for more than 10 years, Capps said. They went through the pandemic and all the unknowns that accompanied it, and they came to the realization that this was the time to think about an exit, something many other hotel owners are considering as well.
“I wouldn’t call them distressed assets,” he said. “They were maybe distressed owners in the sense that they’d been through a lot, and it was time to get out."
Every deal will have some aspect of value creation, Capps said. That could come through renovations, different branding or name changes for independent properties. Bentley Legacy Holdings has to ability to manage design and construction projects.
With its recently acquired Old Santa Fe Inn property, the company plans to add rooms to the hotel, he said. Its Senza Hotel in Napa, California, will get an expanded lobby to create a wine bar and possibly add more rooms.
“Every deal we do is going to have some level of CapEx improvement,” he said.
Pendant focuses on acquiring properties it can hold for 10 years, Capps said. While it may only hold some for five years and hold others for 12, the strategy is to have long-term holds rather than buying and flipping the hotels.
During the previous cycle, many investors came in to try to time the cycle, and that’s not something Pendant’s team is interested in, he said.
“We’re aggregating a portfolio that we feel creates wealth for our ownership long term,” he said.
That’s why it’s targeting markets such as Napa, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sedona, Arizona; and Naples, Florida, he said. Those are markets where it’s more difficult to develop and the fundamentals are strong.
The portfolio is currently a mixed bag of hotel types, and that’s a product of where the opportunities were, Capps said. It has some focused-service and extended-stay hotels along with independent boutique hotels.
“A lot of the opportunities are going to come in different shapes and forms, and a lot of it starts with just having a motivated seller,” he said.
As the company looks to grow the portfolio, it will be opportunistic, he said. One of the deals its working on now is a resort. While the asset class may be a little played out, this one has unique positioning in a market that missed some of the big run-up but still saw some benefit.
In terms of operations, Pendant will continue to work with Aimbridge to manage its branded properties while having Bentley Legacy manage its independent hotels.