Last week we lowered our Lodging sector rating to Market Weight and downgraded HST to Underperform. Our view is we seem late in the lodging cycle and we think U.S. RevPAR faces risks. See our notes with our complete thesis here and here. To be clear we aren’t making a negative call on all lodging. We’re still bullish on timeshare (VAC and HGV), which is our favorite sub-group, and RevPAR isn’t a KPI for timeshare. We also think the hotel C-Corps can still work in a tepid U.S. RevPAR environment because the asset-light business models are powerful, and efforts by China/Europe to re-stimulate could start to favor names with international exposure like the C-Corps, but admittedly we now see less exciting upside to the C-Corps as reflected by our target prices. Given the move in lodging stocks as well as slowing U.S. RevPAR the risk/reward of the space seems less compelling. Owned real estate in the U.S. seems most exposed to our view, which is the reason for our downgrade of HST to Underperform. Investor feedback on our call has generally been receptive, and it feels like sentiment is definitely biased negative. From our conversations we even sense some bearishness towards the high-quality C-Corps.
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Today (3/11/2019) we lower our sector weighting on Lodging from Market Overweight to Market Weight, and we also downgrade HST from Peer Perform to Underperform. The reasoning for the change is largely based on the idea that we are later in the cycle with soft U.S. RevPAR growth, which we do not expect to improve in the near-term.
We downgrade shares of HST from Peer Perform to Underperform and establish a YE19 target price of $17, based on 10x our now lower 2020E EBITDA. Our thesis is largely based on the idea that we are later in the cycle with muted U.S. RevPAR growth and mounting margin pressures, factors that have a disproportionate impact for lodging REITs over C-Corps.
HST reported 4Q earnings on Tuesday(2/19/2019) after the close and hosted its call this morning. The stock closed up >6% we think because HST beat estimates, had constructive commentary on industry trends and particularly group trends, gave decent 2019 guidance, and spoke positively about capital allocation and the potential to return capital to shareholders.
We aggregated pricing trends across multiple vacation options/destinations including cruise lines, Las Vegas casinos, hotels in multiple global markets, airline fares, Disney resorts, ski resorts, and rental cars. The purpose of our analysis was to compare pricing trends for cruises and Las Vegas casinos to alternative vacation options to understand if recent years of pricing strength may begin to make substitute vacation options more attractive, which some investors have expressed to us.
Earnings season has really just begun for our coverage, with only three companies reporting thus far (LVS, WYNN, and RCL). We have 10 observations to highlight with 10 charts, including takeaways from our earnings, read-throughs from other industries, and other non-earnings developments within our coverage.
We have three charts to highlight this week from some of our observations: 1) MAR’s EV/EBITDA premium to HLT has now been wiped out for the first time since the HLT spinoffs, 2) crude oil is down 38% from the highs and yet cruise stocks have also declined 26% over the same time, and surprisingly even underperformed other consumer discretionary names, 3) European PMIs have been soft and there are now incremental concerns about Europe following poor commentary from a few companies this week, so we show European sourcing for each company we cover.
Throughout 2018 cruise, gaming, and lodging stocks have been tightly correlated with the Chinese equity market, despite the fact that many of these companies have little to no direct exposure to China. So far YTD the y/y change in the S&P 500 has had a +0.61 correlation to the y/y change in the China CSI 300 index. This compares to the average of cruise stocks at +0.85, the average of timeshare stocks at +0.92, the average of hotel C-Corp stocks at +0.85, the average of Vegas gaming stocks at +0.90, and the average of Macau gaming stocks at +0.95.
On Thursday (11/01/18) after the close HST reported 3Q EBITDAre of $344M, above consensus and our $327M estimate, as HST beat us mostly on non-room revenues. HST raised FY18 EBITDAre guidance by $5M, but the asset dispositions also result in $7M of less EBITDAre, so it’s really a $12M raise on a core basis, which seems mostly from the 3Q strength.
Last week our coverage universe sold off with the broad market, we assume mostly due to rising rates and trade tension. We have five observations with five related charts to highlight, which we think have relevance for our group.
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