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Marriott International Inc. (NASDAQ:MAR), a leading worldwide hospitality company,is slated to release its first-quarter 2012 results on Wednesday, April 18, after the market closes. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for the first quarter stands at 29 cents per share.

Earnings Surprise

With respect to earnings surprises over the trailing four quarters, Marriott has outperformed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in one quarter, missed the same in two and posted in-line result in one. The earnings surprise ranges from negative 3.70% to 7.41%, with the average at 0.53%. This implies that the company has surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by the same magnitude over the last four quarters.

Fourth Quarter Recap

Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott reported fourth-quarter 2012 adjusted earnings of 46 cents, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. On a reported basis, earnings per share was 41 cents versus 46 cents in the year-ago quarter.

Total revenue, excluding timeshare business, aggregated $3,401 million in the fourth quarter, up 6% year over year. Total revenue also lagged the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 3,740 million. RevPAR for worldwide comparable system-wide properties grew 5.9% during the quarter.

Outlook

For the first quarter, the company estimates that system-wide REVPAR will increase in the range of 5% to 6% in North America, 4% to 5% outside North America and 5% to 6% worldwide. The company expects total fee revenue between $295 million and $305 million and earnings per share between 26 cents and 30 cents in the first quarter of 2012.

The company projects full year 2012 comparable system-wide REVPAR on a constant dollar basis to increase 5% to 7% across all the operational regions. The company forecasts fee revenue to total $1,410 million to $1,450 million (earlier $1,420 million to $1,490 million). Earnings per share for 2012 is expected in the range of $1.52 to $1.64.

Zacks Consensus

The analysts covered by Zacks expect Marriott to post earnings of 29 cents per share for the first quarter of fiscal 2012, higher than the prior-year earnings of 29 cents. Currently, the Zacks Consensus Estimate ranges between 28 cents and 30 cents a share.

Earnings Estimate Revisions - Overview

Estimates have not budged in the last 30 days, implying that the analysts do not view any surprises ahead of the earnings release. Of the analysts covering the stock, 60% were positive while 40% adopted a neutral stance on the stock.

Agreement of Estimate Revisions

There has been no movement in the analysts' estimates regarding the company's earnings over the last 30 days due to the absence of any meaningful catalysts.

Magnitude of Estimate Revisions

Over the last 30 days, there has been no change in the earnings estimate of 29 cents, $1.60 and $1.92 for the first quarter, fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2013, respectively, which implies that the analysts expect the company to report in line.

Our Take

We remain neutral on the stock given the company's strong pipeline, significant international exposure, solid balance sheet, aggressive buyback strategy, lower operating cost structure and increased market share. Moreover, we expect the top line to improve further based on strong demand with group business also gaining momentum. However, travel in Europe continues to remain soft due to prevailing economic uncertainties. Moreover, stiff competition from the major hotel chains and independent companies in the regional markets is a headwind.

Marriott currently retains a Zacks #2 Rank, which translates into a short-term Buy rating. We are also maintaining our long-term Outperform recommendation on the stock.

Another prominent hotelier, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (NYSE:HOT), will come up with its first-quarter 2012 earnings on April 26, 2012.