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WHITE PLAINS-Hotelier Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide reports that despite unfavorable conditions in the travel sector, the firm was able to post a 13.5% increase in earnings per share in the second quarter of this year.

Starwood officials note that earnings per share from continuing operations were at $0.42 for the second quarter of 2003, compared to $0.37 the same period a year ago.

Excluding special items, earnings per share from continuing operations was $0.28 in 2003 compared to $0.41 in 2002. Income from continuing operations was $87 million in 2003 compared to $76 million in 2002, an increase of 14.5%. Net income was $290 million for the second quarter of this year, up from $180 million in the second quarter of 2002, Starwood officials report.

Starwood chairman and CEO Barry S. Sternlicht says the firm is somewhat optimistic that business will improve later this year and into 2004. Part of the company’s improved financial condition is based on the firm’s aggressive asset sales program instituted this year.

“Though our expectations were quite modest given the situation in Iraq, SARS and the global slowdown, we are pleased with our performance in the quarter and encouraged with the monthly revenue progression, particularly the strength of transient business in June, and positive recoveries in Asia and Latin America,” Sternlicht says. “This strength has continued into July as both web-booking trends and call centers remain relatively strong.”

Sternlicht adds, “The highlight of our quarter and the first six months of 2003 must be the dramatic strengthening of our balance sheet, as more than $950 million of asset sales have closed. Through asset sales and disciplined capital spending, we expect our net debt to decrease to $4.1 billion by year-end from nearly $5.2 billion at year end 2002.”

He notes that the firm has $1.3 billion in available credit “to take advantage of attractive opportunities as they may arise.”

During the second quarter, Starwood signed nine hotel management and franchise contracts that totaled 4,300 rooms and also opened eight new hotels and resorts. For all of 2003, Starwood projects that it will open 26 new full service hotels and resorts that will add approximately 7,000 rooms to its portfolio.

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