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Starwood, Marriott shareholders favor merger

April 8, 2016

Shareholders of Starwood and Marriott have thrown their weight behind a merger of the two hotel business giants in the US. The tie-up will create the world's largest hotel chain, but Airbnb is a force to reckon with.

Kombobild Marriott Starwood (Sheraton) Fusion

Friday's votes by Starwood and Marriott shareholders in favor of a merger ended weeks of a bidding battle in which China-based Anbang unsuccessfully tried to take Starwood out of the proposed inter-US tie-up with an all-cash bid.

But after Anbang withdrew from its own bid, without saying why, only the shareholders of the two US hotel business giants could have thwarted the deal. However, their votes on Friday indicated most of them believed the tie-up would be beneficial for all sides.

The merger will create the biggest hotel chain in the world, with the combined companies bringing together 30 brands, including Westin, Aloft, Sheraton and Ritz-Carlton and managing a total of over 1 million rooms worldwide.

Starwood deal with Cuba

Watch out for Airbnb

"Together, we can provide opportunities for significant equity upside and great long-term value driven by a larger global footprint, wider choice of brands for consumers and substantial synergies, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson had said in a statement in support of the tie-up. He added he expected the merger to close by the middle of this year.

Analysts warned geopolitical tensions and fears in the wake of increasing terror attacks impact the global hotel business over the next couple of years. They agreed that a merger between Marriott and Starwood would be a blow to what many viewed as their strongest rival, the Hilton hotel chain.

Market experts also emphasized the official big three in the business would be ill-advised to ignore the rapid rise of Airbnb, saying that "Airbnb was becoming a real threat."

The startup manages an unmatched 2 million rooms worldwide and is often called the secret global leader in the hotel business.

Marriott's $14.41-billion (12.64-billion-euro) acquisition has already been approved by US antitrust regulators, but it still needs the green light from authorities in the European Union and China.

hg/cjc (AP, Reuters)