Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Earnings Call Nuggets: Balance Sheet Outlook and Asian RevPAR

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (NYSE:HOT) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Balance Sheet Outlook

Carlo Santarelli – Deutsche Bank North America: Just to clarify. I know Vasant you obviously laid it out pretty nicely in terms of your thoughts on uses of cash, but given a little bit of a slowdown in the buyback in the quarter, could you first maybe quantify how much of the quarter you were actually able to be in the market and how you’re thinking about the next 6 to 12 months with respect to your balance sheet?

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Vasant M. Prabhu – Vice Chairman and CFO: Sure. I mean we’ve been very clear about this for several years. We started out with a view that we should reinvest in our business. We’ve done that. We lowered our debt. We don’t need to anymore and don’t plan to. We regularly review with our Board our buyback parameters, certainly with an eye on intrinsic value. So as you can see, we were buyers earlier in the quarter when the stock was below $60. We do review price goals and at what prices would be the buyer and so, that’s not a static number. As you can see, it has changed overtime, and we will continue to do that as we go forward. I don’t know, Frits, if you want to add some.

Frits van Paasschen – President and CEO: No, I think the answer still remains a philosophical one. We recognized that we are in a great position in terms of our leverage that we have cash coming in, and as we’ve said repeatedly, we’ll find ways to return that to shareholders, but for us to speak in specific terms prospectively, we feel in our view isn’t a prudent thing to do.

Vasant M. Prabhu – Vice Chairman and CFO: Yes, I think the only thing we would point to as always is our history. If you go back and look at our history, we have been very good in looking at what are the options of deploying cash and have been very good in terms of returning cash. We cannot productively deploy to shareholders to the tune of $8 billion or more over the past several years.

Asian RevPAR

Patrick Scholes – Suntrust Robinson Humphrey: Question for you on your RevPAR out of China and Asia, I’m sure you look at the monthly Smith’s Travel international results. Certainly, you’ve performed much better than – Smith Travel had in their results. I wonder if you can help me reconcile why that maybe?

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Frits van Paasschen – President and CEO: I think in the broadest terms, we do see, and this is something I alluded to, continued outperformance of our hotels relative to their concept mix. And I think that that accounts for a good deal of the outperformance relative to the overall industry numbers. I think in addition to that, you always have the impact of hotels geographically, and as you could see both within China and throughout the region, there was a pretty big range of performance in different locations. And some of that mix has to do with it as well. And then, I think that there is always the benefit of some additional momentum that you have when you have a lot of new hotels in the region. Now, whether the base of our hotels as a percentage of the total that are new relative to others is greater is something you guys could work out, but that’s another thing that I think continues to push our results.

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