The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Hot Topic, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels

   The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Hot Topic, Starwood Hotels & Resorts
     Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels and Marriott

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Jan. 4, 2013

CHICAGO, Jan. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ announces the list of stocks
featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts
discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.
Stocks recently featured in the blog include Hot Topic Inc. (Nasdaq:HOTT),
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT), InterContinental Hotels
Group (NYSE:IHG), Hyatt Hotels Corporation (NYSE:H) and Marriott International
Inc. (NYSE:MAR).


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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Hot Topic Holiday Comps Surge

Hot Topic Inc. (Nasdaq:HOTT) posted robust sales and comparable store sales
(comps) results for the holiday season for the combined months of November and
December. Moreover, the company maintained its guidance for the fourth

Hot Topic's comps for the nine weeks ended December 29, 2012, inched up 2.2%
compared with 1.8% reported in the comparable year-ago period. The increase in
comps was driven by a 1.6% rise in comps at the company's namesake stores and
a 5.5% hike in Torrid stores.

Hot Topic's net holiday sales increased 4.0% year over year to $177.3 million,
on account of robust sales in Torrid concepts stores as well as marginal
improvement in the company's namesake stores. On a segmental basis, net sales
inched up 0.8% year over year to $141.1 million at the company's namesake
stores, while Torrid stores registered a 18.8% increase with sales of $36.2

Positive results during the holiday season mainly came from the new
merchandising and sourcing strategies at Torrid. Further, the company
continued to benefit from favorable customer response to the fashion apparel
and tee businesses, which largely made up for the drag in the accessories

Year-to-date Sales Data

Year to date, the company's total sales grew 4.2% to $686.0 million driven
primarily by strong sales at Torrid concepts. Net sales improved 1.7% year
over year to $514.2 million at the company's namesake stores, while Torrid
stores registered a 12.3% increase with sales of $171.8 million.

Comps were up 3.4% compared with the 1.3% rise reported in the year-ago
period. This increase was driven by 3.5% and 3.0% comps growth at the
company's namesake stores and Torrid stores, respectively.

Outlook Intact

Management maintained its earnings guidance for the fourth quarter, projecting
earnings in the range of 23 cents – 27 cents per share compared with 21 cents
earned in the fourth quarter of 2011. The company's guidance is based on comps
growth in the low to mid-single-digit percentage range. The current Zacks
Consensus Estimate for fourth quarter earnings stands at 25 cents per share.

Hot Topic also provided initial guidance for fiscal 2013 (52 weeks ended
February 1, 2014), anticipating a 30% – 35% increase in earnings compared to
fiscal 2012. This guidance assumes comp sales to increase in the
low-single-digit range.

Further, management remains confident about its business prospects in 2013,
anticipating continued growth from its Torrid segment. Buoyed by such an
overwhelming outlook, the company reaffirmed its plan to open 40 new Torrid
stores, 15 new Hot Topic outlets and an additional 5 to 10, newly introduced
Blackheart stores in 2013.

Share Repurchase Program

Through December 2012, the company bought back about 2,535,370 shares at $9.86
per share, valued at $25 million. This buy back was in line with the company's
previously announced share repurchase authorization of up to $25.0 million.

Record Deals for Starwood in 2012

Leading hospitality company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
(NYSE:HOT) recently declared that amid such global macroeconomic turmoil, it
has entered into maximum number of hotel agreements in 2012.

At the end of 2012, the company inked nearly 125 new hotel management and
franchise deals, which reflect an increase of 13% year over year. Of its total
pipeline, 20% of hotel deals are consistent with the company's brand
conversion strategy.

Earlier, the company projected to unveil 71 new hotels with nearly 18,500
guestrooms located across 20 countries by the end of 2012.

The company will be able to beef up its portfolio with these new deals and
hotels, especially in the emerging markets. In 2012, the company entered into
the maximum number of hotel deals in the developing markets. In order to ramp
up its presence in the flourishing Chinese market, Starwood Hotels is set to
introduce its 125^th hotel in the country in 2013.

Moreover, in a concerted endeavor to strengthen its full-service,
luxury/upscale brands portfolio the company opened various significant
properties in 2012. The company has unveiled new hotels such as Blue Mountains
in Australia, Metropole Palace in Serbia and Twelve at Hengshan in Shanghai
under its luxury brand St. Regis. The company's W brand also had a strong year
with its debut in Paris, Bangkok and Singapore.

Besides, the company's upscale brand Sheraton, Westin and Le Méridien also
witnessed the opening of various new properties including The Westin New York
Grand Central in Manhattan, Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central, The Westin
Lake Las Vegas, Le Méridien Arlington, The Westin Snowmass Resort, Sheraton
Vitoria in Brazil and Le Méridien Mexico City in Mexico.

The company's mid-market brands, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft and Element
also grew in 2012. Starwood introduced highest number of hotels under its Four
Points by Sheraton brand in 2012. In addition, Aloft made its debut in
Zhengzhou Zhengdong in China and San Jose in Costa Rica. The company also
launched its Element brand in South Florida with the opening of its first
hotel in Miami International Airport.

Starwood Hotels competes with major hoteliers like InterContinental Hotels
Group (NYSE:IHG), Hyatt Hotels Corporation (NYSE:H) and Marriott International
Inc. (NYSE:MAR).

Starwood currently retains a Zacks #3 Rank (a short-term 'Hold' rating).

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