For some time now, Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR ) has been one of the best hospitality companies to own -- both in stock performance and fundamentals. Though it is an iconic brand with a tremendous (and quickly growing) international presence, the company continues to find new avenues of growth and is able to post double-digit growth in both earnings and dividend payout -- a rare and lucrative combination. It's little wonder that the stock has drifted up nearly 50% over the past two years. Of course, the question now is: Does Marriott offer as much opportunity to investors going forward as it has in the recent past?
After booking yet another round of impressive quarterly growth, including a 26.4% gain in net income and nearly 18% sales growth in the International segment, Marriott International doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
As opposed to many multinational organizations that are leaning almost entirely on international growth, Marriott's North American operations continue to tick up, albeit at a slower pace. The Limited Service segment, which is more geared toward travelers instead of the feature- and amenity-seekers, significantly outgrew its Full Service counterpart in the United States. Like its peers in the industry, Marriott appears to be benefiting, domestically at least, from increased business travel.
Still, it's the usual story of emerging-market growth that keeps things exciting for the company and its investors. At the beginning of Marriott's current quarter, the company closed the acquisition of Protea Hotels -- an African chain representing over 100 locations and more than 10,000 rooms. With the majority of its locations in South Africa and sub-Saharan regions, Marriott is poised to benefit from the quickly increasing business traffic to the continent. Africa is arguably the most competitive, exciting area for international hospitality businesses, and Marriott is making sure it's at the front of the pack.
Can it meet expectations?
With the stock at more than 20 times forward expected earnings, investors are paying up for Marriott's future. The company does pay a $0.20-per-share dividend (1.8% yield), which gives it the rare appeal of a stock that will likely continue to deliver attractive capital appreciation along with decent quarterly distributions.
Both internal and external estimates put the company at healthy growth for the current and coming years, and with strong industry tailwinds (especially in the business segment), it appears that Marriott should have little trouble meeting its goals. Though it's already booked substantial gains in the marketplace, Marriott remains a very compelling business to own for growth investors and fundamentals-oriented stock pickers.
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