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Hotel defaults expected to increase


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POSTED: Thursday, July 02, 2009

As many as one in five U.S. hotel loans may default through 2010 as the recession means companies are spending less on travel and perks, according to University of California economist Kenneth Rosen.

The value of hotel properties in default or foreclosure almost doubled to $17.3 billion in the second quarter through June 24, from $9 billion at the end of the first quarter, data compiled by Real Capital Analytics Inc. show.

The New York-based research firm, which began tracking distressed commercial property in November, expects hotel defaults to increase by as much as $2 billion this quarter, said analyst Jessica Ruderman.

“;Hotels without question will have the highest foreclosure rate of any commercial real estate sector,”; said Rosen, who runs a real estate hedge fund with $310 million in assets and is chairman of the University of California's Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics in Berkeley.

Hotel owners are defaulting as room rates and property values tumble and the securitized mortgage market that fueled an 88 percent gain in U.S. commercial prices from 2001 to late 2008 is dormant.

Luxury hotel revenue fell 28 percent in April from a year earlier and has dropped for 12 straight months, according to Smith Travel Research Inc. in Hendersonville, Tenn. The 29 percent decline in March was the biggest since October 2001.

A third of the $8.6 billion in securities backed by hotel loans due in 2010 are at risk of defaulting, data compiled by credit-rating firm Realpoint LLC in Horsham, Penn., show.

“;Rates, revenue and cash-flow levels across the hotel industry are projected to continue to decline,”; said Frank Innaurato, managing director of CMBS analytical services at Realpoint. “;If those projections stay true, a lot of these hotel loans that are scheduled to mature are at high risk of defaulting.”;

A joint venture of New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Gencom of Miami bought the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui in March 2006 and renovated the property before defaulting in April on a $260 million loan from Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., according to a May 6 regulatory filing by Maui Land & Pineapple Co. Inc. Maui Land & Pineapple sold the land under the hotel and is a 16 percent partner in the venture.

Andrea Raphael, a spokes-woman for Goldman Sachs, and Suzanne Schmidt, outside spokeswoman for Gencom, declined to comment.

Maui Land & Pineapple declined to comment beyond the filing. Ritz-Carlton is a Marriott brand.

A quarter of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua's scheduled meetings were canceled this year, including events by banks and insurance companies, said General Manager Tom Donovan. Half of the hotel's revenue comes from group business, he said.