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IRVING, TX-FelCor Lodging Trust Inc.’s executive team is ahead of schedule for axing $400 million from its $1.4-billion debt. The new expectation is the goal will be met by year’s end.

This week’s schedule calls for closing a $250-million CMBS loan at Libor plus 93 basis points secured by 12 hotels, FelCor executive vice president and CFO Andrew Welch reported to shareholders and analysts in yesterday’s earnings call. The team again sits down Dec. 1 to finish up on buyback plan.

“We are well ahead of schedule,” Welch said. When all is said and done with the fiscal repackaging, FelCor expects to save $5.5 million in interest in 2007. And, he added, there will be “no significant maturities until 2009.”

In the midst of the financial shuffle, Richard Smith, FelCor president and CEO, reported the renovation plan is well under way, with work completed at 12 hotels to date and a schedule in place through 2008. In first quarter 2007, another 20 hotels will be overhauled; 16 in Q2; 12 in Q3 and 10 in Q4. By the 2007 close, the local REIT will have upgraded 83% of its portfolio, with the remainder ticketed to be done in 2008. As upgrades go into place so do higher daily rates in a portfolio adjustment targeting an upper-tier hospitality segment.

On the sales front, Smith said the 45-hotel disposition plan will essentially be complete by year’s end as well. To date, 23 sales have yielded $356 million. Fifteen of the remaining 22 hotels are under contract and talks are under way for another five, according to Smith. FelCor originally projected the disposition wouldn’t be done until mid to end 2007. And the sweet spot is “we’re coming in at the high end or slightly better than the high end of our projected proceeds,” he reported.

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