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Hilton Considering Sale of New York’s Waldorf, CEO Says

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
the Waldorf Astoria hotel, the 83-year-old Art Deco luxury hotel, home to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is slated to be sold to a Chinese buyer. The deal will probably draw scrutiny from a U.S. national security panel to assess potential spying risks. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded hotel operator, is considering selling a stake in the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan or the entire hotel, Chief Executive Officer Christopher Nassetta said.

“We may look to reposition the hotel,” Nassetta said in a telephone interview after the McLean, Virginia-based company reported fourth-quarter earnings. “We are still deciding on how we may reposition it and who we may reposition it with. Part of this would require capital, so we would look at the option of selling all or a stake in the hotel.”

Hilton is considering residential, office and retail uses for the Park Avenue property, Nassetta said. The 1,232-room hotel is so large that it has hurt Hilton’s ability to charge luxury-level rates, said Nikhil Bhalla, an analyst at FBR & Co. in Arlington, Virginia. Rooms at the 82-year-old hotel start at $279 for the week of March 3, according to the its website.

“It’s a tired hotel,” Bhalla said. “It needs an overhaul. If they added condos, that could work. The residential market is hot in New York, it would make the most sense, but office can make sense too because of its location on Park Avenue.”

The median sale price of Manhattan condominiums reached a record $1.32 million in the fourth quarter, according to a report by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The median for apartments in new developments was $1.73 million, up 27 percent from a year earlier. Midtown office prices are exceeding peak levels on a per-square-foot basis.

‘Other Uses’

“There will always be the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, but it may include other uses,” Nassetta said. Hilton would continue to operate the hotel after any sale, he said.

A possible deal for New York’s Waldorf Astoria, which Hilton bought in 1972, is part a plan to possibly sell hotels in “a couple of years,” Nassetta said. Hilton, which in December raised $2.35 billion in a record initial public offering for the industry, would prefer selling real estate in a portfolio transaction rather than single-property deals, he said.

“We don’t have a timeline,” Nassetta said. Hilton’s properties include namesake hotels in San Francisco, New York and Chicago. “We certainly can mine the value of our assets in the next couple of years. At some point, if we think there’s a significant value in doing something like selling our real estate, we’re not going to be shy.”

Hilton’s fourth-quarter revenue rose 13 percent to $2.64 billion from a year earlier, the company said in a statement earlier today. It was the company’s first earnings report after its IPO. Net income attributable to common stockholders fell to $26 million, or 3 cents a share, from $61 million, or 7 cents, in part because of IPO-related costs, Hilton said.

Hilton shares dropped 0.2 percent to $22.49 today. They’ve gained 12 percent since the IPO.

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