Marriott (NYSE:MAR) joined a growing list of hotel companies reporting solid quarterly earnings and improved prospects last week. That, at least, was the case as it relates to the company's results, excluding its seemingly difficult-to-justify synthetic fuels business.

Without that business, which clearly is unrelated to hotels and time-shares, the company's adjusted net income for the quarter of $219 million was up 7% from the same quarter a year earlier. Adjusted diluted per-share income for the quarter was $0.52, up 13% from the prior year.

Marriott's reported net income for the quarter, including the synthetic fuels business, was $220 million, or $0.52 per share, versus $237 million, or $0.54 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2005. Analysts apparently had been expecting reported per-share earnings to be about $0.49 per share. The company's revenues for the quarter were $3.9 billion, up 6% from the prior year.

In addition to its mainstream business, Marriott produces synthetic fuels at three facilities. This business contributed $1 million to after-tax earnings in the most recent quarter, versus $33 million after-tax a year ago. Management noted in its post-release conference call that it "has entered into hedge agreements to minimize operating losses that could occur if there is a sustained material increase in oil prices in 2007."

Looking at a key metric used to assess operating strength in the hotel industry, Marriott's revenue per available room (or RevPAR) for its worldwide properties was up 8.4% year over year in the quarter. At the same time, average daily rates for North American company-operated properties increased by 9.7%, but a "modest" occupancy decline resulted in a domestic RevPAR increase of 7.2%.

Marriott, which operates the Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Courtyard hotel chains, is also a major participant in the expanding time-share business. Indeed, revenue from time-share sales and services increased 27% in the latest quarter. Excluding time-share note sales gains, time-share sales and services revenue increased 18% in the quarter.

Marriott follows Hilton Hotels (NYSE:HLT), which earlier this month reported that it nearly doubled its income for the quarter ended in December. Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE:WYN) and Choice Hotels (NYSE:CHH) are expected to report their quarterly and annual results on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Looking ahead, Marriott is forecasting the addition of 30,000 net rooms in 2007. Adjusted per-share revenues are expected to reach $1.82 to $1.92 (excluding synthetic fuels), up 10.3% to 16.4% from the adjusted $1.65 per share for the full year 2006. The reported 2006 figure was $1.41, including a $0.25 per-share after-tax charge related to a change in time-share accounting rules and a penny earnings from the synthetic fuels operation. The company's previous per-share earnings guidance for 2007 was in the $1.78 to $1.88 range.

Despite something of a roller coaster on Thursday and Friday, Marriott's share price has increased by more than 40% during the past year. On Thursday, the shares rose $1.08, or 2.2%, only to drop $2.12, or 4.1% on Friday.

Allowing for both the cork-in-a-storm performance following the earnings release and the somewhat imponderable nature of the company's synthetic fuels business -- to say nothing of its strange fit with the core business -- Marriott's shares probably deserve a look from Fools interested in potentially booking profits.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments or questions.