Friday, November 25, 2016

Hilton Worldwide: Management Co, Hotel REIT, Timeshare Business

I mention from time-to-time that I co-host a monthly Special Situation Research Forum discussion group sponsored by CFA Society Chicago where we pick a specific company each month and have a deep dive discussion on it.  This month we picked Hilton Worldwide (HLT) which is splitting into three companies at the end of the year by spinning off its owned real estate into a REIT, Park Hotels & Resorts (PK), and its timeshare business, Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV), leaving an asset-light management company as the remaining parent.  The choice was made before the election and ensuing stock market run up, so while the situation is a little less compelling as one company today, as we've seen with RR Donnelley's (RRD) three way split, a lot of market distortions can happen in these scenarios which makes Hilton worth investigating ahead of time.

Founded in 1919 by Conrad Hilton, Hilton Worldwide is the second largest hospitality company with over 4,800 hotels flying one of their brand's banners across 104 different countries.  Hilton was one of the largest leveraged buyouts before the financial crisis with Blackstone taking it private for $26B in 2007 and then subsequently taking it public again in 2013.  Blackstone made out surprisingly well in the deal, and since reappearing on the public markets Hilton has been following the trend towards an asset-light management company model.  To that end, earlier this year Hilton announced intentions to break up into three companies, which should happen by year end.

Current corporate structure:
Post-spinoff corporate structure:
Why do the spinoffs?
  • Typical spinoff rationale of varying capital structures, aligning incentives, investor choice, etc.
  • REIT valuation arbitrage, as a pass through entity that pay high dividends REITs are valued more richly than the same real estate would be within a larger Hilton.
  • Financial engineering of turning Park Hotels management fees and Hilton Grand Vacations licensing fees from an expense that's eliminated in consolidation to a revenue stream at the parent Hilton where they'll likely earn a higher valuation than either spinoff.
  • The parent will be a vast majority of the value, by simplifying the business towards the management contracts, the parent should earn a higher multiple.  The market values simplicity, all three entities will be easier to understand separate than together.
Additionally, Hilton's larger rival Marriott (who recently merged with Starwood) has done similar spinoffs in the past of Host Hotels & Resorts in the 1990s (highlighted in Greenblatt's book) and Marriott Vacations Worldwide in 2011.  There's a clear precedent for this split-up and both Marriott spinoffs have been successful.  Hilton's current CEO, Christopher Nassetta, previously headed up Host Hotels and knows the playbook to make this a successful split-up.

Park Hotels & Resorts (PK)
The larger of the two spinoffs will be one of the last REIT spinoffs, Hilton secured an IRS private letter ruling before the crackdown in late 2015.  The new rule prevents spinoffs from converting to a REIT for ten years after the spin date, effectively eliminating the loophole.  Park Hotels & Resorts will be the second largest lodging REIT behind the old Marriott real estate spin, Host Hotels & Resorts (HST), and significantly bigger than the third largest in the sector.  Now that REITs are their own sector of the S&P 500, some active managers will be forced to add REITs where they were previously underinvested, as a sizable lodging REIT, Park Hotels might be a beneficiary of that index change.

Park Hotels will start off life with 36,000 rooms across 69 hotels, heavily tilted to their largest ten convention and resort style hotels below.  Due to their locations, these hotels are more difficult to replicate and thus face less competition than midscale and economy tier hotels in suburban locations.
Park will only have exposure to Hilton brands initially, but I don't see that as big of a problem as other single exposure REIT spinoffs as its an easier task to rebrand a hotel than say an Ameristar casino or an Olive Garden restaurant.  Park does intend to diversify away from Hilton's brands via acquisition, there are 22 public lodging REITs, some consolidation of this sector seems likely with another big player in the mix.  REITs are one of the few areas where M&A makes a lot of sense as operations are easier to integrate and G&A can more easily be cut at the target thereby spreading the parent's corporate expenses over a larger asset base.  Besides straight M&A deals, REITs can also take advantage of private/public valuation arbitrage, the public markets often times take shortcuts in valuing REITs (me included) and don't make cap rate adjustments for different local markets.  Assets in prime locations that would fetch very low cap rates are grouped in with the rest of a portfolio.  For example, last year Hilton sold the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Park Avenue to a Chinese buyer for 32x EBITDA, an amazingly high multiple, and invested the proceeds in Orlando and Key West hotels via a 1031 exchange at 13x EBITDA (still not cheap) as a way of recycling capital and showing higher EBITDA/FFO irregardless if the underlying real estate value didn't change.

Lodging REITs are on the riskier side of the REIT industry as their leases are the shortest, one night at a time, versus apartment REITs with 1 year leases, or office and industrial REITs that can have average lease terms of 10+ years.  It's not a great business, if it weren't for the REIT tax-free pass through status and investors desire for yield, Park Hotels would be the classic capital intensive bad business that the parent company is trying to shed via a spinoff.  Park puts up all the capital and has to pay Hilton 3% of gross hotel revenues, an incentive fee of 6% of hotel earnings and reimbursement of staffing and operating costs.  Lodging REITs are better than other franchisee businesses because of the tax-free pass through status, but otherwise it's very similar.  Although with corporate level taxes potentially coming down, REITs may lose some of their appeal.

Back to Park Hotels, a few of the particulars:
  • Tom Baltimore will become the CEO, he was previously the CEO of RLJ Lodging Trust and recently left that post specifically to become the CEO of Park Hotels & Resorts after the spinoff.  He's previously worked for Hilton, Marriott and Host Marriott at different times so he likely understands the benefits of the spinoff.  Part of his incentive compensation will be based on Park Hotel's total stockholder return compared to the FTSE NAREIT Lodging/Resorts Index over a 3 year period.
  • 90% of Park's hotel exposure is in the U.S., 10% is abroad, Hilton had to be careful to minimize the international exposure in order to meet REIT requirements.  I'd expect Hilton to continue to divest the owned international real estate in smaller one off transactions.
  • 85% of their hotels are upper upscale and luxury brands, basically this means the flagship Hilton brand level and higher.  90% of their rooms are either urban, resort, or airport hotels, versus only 10% in suburban locations with less barriers to entry.
  • There will be a special purging dividend of roughly $200MM sometime after the spinoff, 80% of the special dividend will be in stock (but still taxable) and 20% in cash.
  • Target leverage of 3-5x EBITDA, generally Lodging REITs are less levered than other REITs due to their cyclical nature.
  • Included in Park are 4 operated hotels and a laundry service business, likely these are the active trade businesses ("lemonade stands") that are required for a tax free spinoff.
Host Hotels is the best and clear comp, however Park Hotels probably deserves a little discount to Host because it's not diversified among hospitality management companies and doesn't have the long track record.  Host trades for 11.1x EBITDA, Park should trade for at least 10x EBITDA, especially given their hotels in New York, San Francisco and Hawaii, plus remember they bought their Orlando and Key West hotels at 13x EBITDA.  Park will have $3B in debt and has proforma 2016 EBITDA of $775MM, at 10x, Park's equity value should be $4.75B or $4.80 per share of HLT.

Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV)
Timeshare spinoffs have been officially a thing for a few years now, Marriott spun off Marriott Vacations Worldwide (VAC) in 2011 and Starwood completed a spinoff via a reverse morris trust of their Vistana Signature Experiences timeshare unit with ILG (f/k/a Interval Leisure Group, ILG) earlier in 2016.

The latest timeshare spin, Hilton Grand Vacations will have more than 265,000 timeshare owners, 46 resorts, and over 7,500 units.  Since being acquired by Blackstone, Hilton has made over its timeshare business to be predominately an capital-light model where instead of developing and funding the construction of the resort themselves, Hilton Grand Vacations partners with third-party developers (PE real estate funds) who then contract out the timeshare share sales and resort management to HGV for a fee.  More than 75% of their timeshare sales now comes from this fee-for-service or a just-in-time inventory method versus 0% in 2009, this has greatly increased ROIC.
Timeshare companies typically make money in four different ways:
  1. Selling timeshare units, this is a cyclical, expensive (tours, free vacations, etc), yet profitable business that's still significantly below pre-financial crisis levels.
  2. Financing the timeshare sales, this is a great business, typically these are 10 year fully amortizing loans that carry interest rates of 10-18% depending on downpayments and FICO scores (HGV's typical buyer has $100+k income and a 745 FICO score).  These loans then get securitized and sold with the timeshare company receiving servicing fees and an equity strip.  Timeshare securitizations have performed surprisingly well throughout the market cycle.
  3. Management contracts on the timeshare resorts, this is another great business, timeshare companies typically charge ownership associations a fee in a cost-plus arrangement (cost + 10% in HGV's case) for managing the resort and up-keeping the property, rooms, etc.  While the hotel management companies typically take a clip off of revenue, here the timeshare companies are taking one off of expenses, the result is a lower upside but a lower risk recurring revenue stream.  The management contracts are sticky, HGV hasn't had a contract terminated since the unit was created in 1992.
  4. Rental income from unsold inventory, units that haven't been sold to a timeshare purchaser can be rented out like any other hotel room, this is less than ideal but is a way of reducing inventory drag as timeshare units are sold.
Another interesting dynamic of the industry is the lack of a secondary market for timeshares.  Once you purchase a timeshare, it's difficult to sell them because the industry makes it difficult by offering perks only to members that buy directly from them that secondary purchasers aren't eligible for.  Another big factor is that there's a lack of financing options for secondary market timeshares, no one will lend to them because there's essentially no collateral.  The timeshare companies themselves are willing lenders because if a loan defaults, that timeshare unit can be foreclosed on and put back into their inventory to be sold to another buyer rather easily.  That mechanism isn't really available to anyone else.

Back to HGV, Mark Wang leads the division now and will be the CEO once the spinoff commences.  He's been in charge of Hilton's timeshare operations for many years and as led the company through the current transition to an capital light business model.  Unlike Park, HGV doesn't plan to diversify away from the Hilton Brand and has signed a 100 year licensing deal to use the Hilton brand name in exchange for 5% of timeshare sales.  Mark Wang has done an admirable job at HGV, they've grown timeshare sales every year through the recessioin, with a CAGR of 7.9% from 2007 to 2015, outperforming the industry, which experience a decline of 2.6% over the same time.

Marriott Vacations Worldwide (VAC) is a pretty good comp, their business segments are nearly identical with Hilton Grand Vacations being a little farther along in their move to a capital light model.  VAC trades for about 8x EBITDA (excluding securitization debt), HGV's proforma 2016 EBITDA is expected to be $380MM and it will have $500MM of non-recourse debt, at 8x EBITDA the equity value of HGV should be $2.54B or $2.56 per share of HLT.

At a $2.5B market cap, Hilton Grand Vacations has the potential to be sold by large cap indexes and unlike Park Hotels & Resorts, HGV won't pay a dividend and doesn't have the REIT investor backstop, in my mind it has the most potential to be mispriced following the spinoffs.

Hilton Worldwide (HLT)
Following the spinoffs of PK and HGV, the parent Hilton Worldwide will generate over 90% of its EBITDA from fee based capital light sources, the remaining 10% from owned hotels which should go down over time in smaller owned hotel sales and as the fee based business continues to grow organically.  Hotel management is a great business as others put up the capital to develop and construct the hotels and then contract out to the likes of Hilton to manage the hotel and be included in their rewards program (HiltonHonors) which brings immediate patronage that being an independent hotel otherwise wouldn't.

Hilton is able to grow very quickly with minimal additional invested capital, since year end 2007, as shown below, Hilton has invested $184MM in the fee businesses which has created an additional $726MM in run rate EBITDA.
Hilton's pipeline is equally impressive, they currently have 789,000 rooms in the system or 4.8% of the global supply, but have over 21% (288,000 rooms) of the new development pipeline (again at minimal additional investment), which should drive growth for years to come.  Next year they expect to add 50,000 - 55,000, or a growth rate of about 6%  from current levels, much of this growth is in overseas markets.
What will Hilton do with their cash flow?  Management's plan is to maintain a low investment grade credit profile, dividend out 30-40% of recurring cash to shareholders, with the remaining cash flow available for share repurchases in a new program to be initiated after the spinoffs occur.  So with Hilton, you have a business that needs very little capital to grow and will return the vast majority of cash to investors via dividends and share repurchase, the best of both worlds.  Marriott paid 14x EBITDA for Starwood earlier this year, backing out a takeover premium and valuing Hilton at 13x EBITDA seems reasonable to me.  At 13x, with $1.76B in 2016 EBITDA and $6.1B in debt would make the equity worth $16.8B or $16.97 per share of HLT.

Adding up the three pieces and I come up with $24.33 per share, a slight discount to the current share price of $25.31 and the $26.25 that HNA Group recently paid for a 25% stake from Blackstone (BX).  This is more of a growth situation than value, and much of the valuation rests on Hilton Worldwide's EBITDA growth trajectory, which since it's not the spinoff, we have little insight into how they've calculated the proforma 2016 EBITDA.  They've disclosed approximately $200MM in transaction expenses, which seems extreme to me, and there's roughly $180MM in management and licensing fees coming from the two new spinoffs into the parent.  If those aren't included in the proforma number or somehow netted against the transaction costs, that would be an additional $2.36 per share in value, plus the additional organic growth coming online in 2017.  I've seen 2018 EBITDA estimates above $2B for proforma Hilton.  The company is hosting an investor day on 12/8, maybe we get some more clarity on the parent at that time.

For now I've just purchased a placeholder position via just in the money January 2018 calls.  If the growth strategy works out, so will my LEAPs, if not, I've limited my downside.  Once the spinoffs occur maybe one of the three will be more interesting as the investor bases turnover.

Disclosure: I own HLT LEAPs


  1. Those call options will go wonky post-spin.

    1. Yes, should throw out a warning on that before anyone follows me, the pre-spin call options will be a lot less liquid after the spinoffs occur. I've done this a couple times and occasionally the pre-spin options get way out of whack, but I'm going into these with the intention to hold through expiration. It's mostly a placeholder, will re-evaluate after the spin to see how each company trades.

  2. Marginally OT, but since you're into real estate right now....

    I stumbled into this one: See their 10/16 report on TCO (Taubman Centers). They may not be able to overcome management, but it seems like there's real value. FYI in case you're looking for new names to research.

    Thanks for sharing - your work is fantastic.

    1. I like their work, good fund to follow, I'll take a look. Thanks for reading and the kind words.

  3. Thank you for the nice article. I also came up with similar numbers. HLT is currently $26.31 a share. If it rallies a lot prior to the split in early Jan I may short HLT which will also be shorting the spin offs. Any thoughts?

    1. I would assume there are better short candidates out there? Wacky things do happen around spins, especially 3 way ones, maybe it would work out. But the core HLT is a good-to-great business that will begin a buyback program after the spinoffs occur, seems like there should be better shorting opportunities out there at current market prices. But I don't often short or have that mindset, just my thoughts. Thanks.

  4. Very true. Sems like a short would be an iffy idea with this one. For sure the parent HLT is worth keeping the more I read. So buy after the split Jan 4th or buy prior and see!? Thats the question now it seems. Thanks

  5. Hi MDC -

    Is there a stock you own or on your radar that has the potential or realistic possibility of "multibagging" within a 1-2 years? Thanks.

    1. STAR is probably the only thing I own where a multibagger is a more than likely and it might be more in the 3-4 year time horizon. There's a lot of embedded value in there that's not showing up, but it'll take time, won't be a quick transformation back to a normal looking REIT.

      Otherwise, one or two of the microcap spinoffs might be worth looking at, I've been poking around NVTR, negative enterprise value, single product medical device company, basically a call option.

      Anything on your radar worth sharing?

    2. I'd probably also throw RSO on there, not a multibagger, but a one bagger in 1-2 years.

    3. Thanks. I don't at the moment but I promise to share if and when I do (we always do eventually, don't we?).

      I am a little intrigued by LOV which has been a disaster for many years and I saw it was written up in NYT this past weekend (what made me think about it again..). It has been an activist play as well. I notice that it's been burning cash which makes me less interested but still worth a looksie.

      The two worst performing sectors in 2016 are energy (though up hugely from bottom) and healthcare. I wont touch HC because its mostly biotechs which I have zero comfort in. So energy may be the place to look.

      The worst performers in 2016, not surprisingly, are almost all in those two sectors.

      But the market is very generous - it always provides opps as long as one is patient.

      Best to you in 2017.

  6. I misspoke - Take a look at GAIA. It has a lot of upside potential and is a microcap, which by definition is where multibaggers reside. High insider ownership. Would love to hear your thoughts. I dont expect it to go up at a 45 degree angle - there will be ups and downs and hiccups along the way.

  7. What do you think of PK, HGV, and HLT now that the spin off has occurred? Which is most attractive to you right now?

    1. I'm still most interested in HGV, holding up right now, but I'm curious if it'll get sold off (small size relative to HLT, timeshare business, etc), but otherwise I'm just sitting on my hands. I don't like the PK business, and HLT seems interesting to me if I could get around the valuation. In their investor deck at the analyst day they basically laid out a plan to grow hotel count by a third while shrinking sharecount by a third over the next few years, that's a powerful combination.

    2. If HGV sells off, do you anticipate taking a position? Unfortunately, I went in a bit early on the PK business and it tanked today. Do you see more downside coming? Is there anything in particular that scares you about PK, or do you just like HGV and HLT more?

    3. HGV is the one I'm following closely, trying to be patient and let the shareholder rotation happen and not jump in too quickly. I think the timeshare business is underrated and not as cyclical as it appears, might end up swapping ILG for HGV as HGV is simpler and more capital light than ILG.

      I don't love PK, don't hate it either, hotel REITs are a lot more cyclical than other REITs, plus they're paying out a big cut of both their revenues and profits to HLT. Then I haven't seen this talked about much, but if corporate tax rates do come down significantly and personal rates come down a smaller amount (which is how the proposals I've seen look) then the tax advantage of being REIT also comes down as well since you're paying unqualified dividend rates. You've got a franchisee type business with this great tax structure that other franchisee businesses (like a McDonald's franchisee) don't enjoy, but that tax structure might get nerfed by lower corporate taxes soon.

    4. What do you think about PK now that it has sold off and is around the $26 level? How are things playing out with HGV for you?

    5. PK seems about fairly valued to me now, but I have a bias against the hotel REIT business model.

      I still haven't done anything with HGV, maybe that's a mistake, but I've just been sitting on my hands for the most part, trying to practice more patience.