Hilton to sell NY's Waldorf Astoria to Chinese firm

By Reuters

Oct 07, 2014 04:38 AM EDT

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc (HLT.N) said it would sell its flagship Waldorf Astoria New York hotel to a Chinese insurance company for $1.95 billion, one of the highest prices per room ever paid for a U.S. hotel.

Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd will pay $1.38 million per room for the Manhattan hotel that was once home to Marilyn Monroe, in a deal that will see Hilton continue to operate the property for the next 100 years.

"The hotel will undergo a major renovation to restore the property to its historic grandeur," Hilton said in a statement.

The Waldorf Astoria is the latest iconic New York property to be bought by a Chinese company, after last year's sale of One Chase Manhattan Plaza to Fosun International Ltd (0656.HK), controlled by billionaire Guo Guangchang. (r.reuters.com/bav83v)

Beijing-based Anbang manages about 700 billion yuan ($114 billion) worth of assets, according to its website. Based on full occupancy at the Waldorf's lowest room rate of $329, Anbang would recover its investment in about 10 years.

But some rooms are much more expensive. A night in the Towers presidential suite will cost a single guest $1,609, according to the hotel's website. The hotel had 1,413 rooms as of Dec. 31.

Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotels chain, bought the Waldorf Astoria New York in 1949, nearly two decades after the hotel opened on Park Avenue.

The hotel was the setting for the "Weekend at The Waldorf", starring Ginger Rogers, and its $1,000-per-week Suite 2728 was home to Marilyn Monroe in 1955 after she left behind her troubled life in Hollywood.

The per-room price paid by Anbang is more than that fetched by some other high-end hotelsin the past few years, though less than the $1.5 million per room paid in 2012 for the 157-room Setai Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building.

Patrick Scholes, analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc, said he believed the renovations would include the conversion of some of the Waldorf Astoria's top floors into condominiums.

Hilton's luxury brand, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, owns 27 properties in cities such as Amsterdam, Chicago, Dubai and Shanghai.

Hilton said it would use the proceeds from the sale to buy more hotels in the United States.

"The sale allows (Hilton) to unlock a lot of capital and redeploy to grow the company's presence in other markets," said Evercore Partners analyst Smedes Rose.

Hilton stock was little changed at $24.20 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. It had risen more than 9 percent this year to Friday's close.

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