DALLAS-As planned, Ashford Hospitality Trust has picked up a 51-hotel portfolio right in step with last night’s $6.6-billion merger closing between Orlando-based CNL Hotels & Resorts Inc. and a Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed fund. Ashford’s $2.4 billion has bought 13,640 keys in 18 states, the District of Columbia and Canada while the fund manager has cherry-picked eight crown jewels.

Monty J. Bennett, president and CEO of the Dallas-based Ashford, says the portfolio is “an unparalleled investment opportunity and transformational event for Ashford.” The news rolled out at the end of the day so dealmakers weren’t available to discuss the culmination of a plan put into play in January.

The deal points, though, are clearly outlined in Ashford’s press release. The 24 full-service, upper-upscale hotels, totaling 8,069 rooms, sold for $215,000 per key while the 27 premium select-service assets, with 5,571 rooms, brought $125,000 per key. The projected forward 12-month NOI cap rate is about 7.6% and estimated forward EBITDA yield is 9%.

The portfolio, spanning 31 metro and coastal markets, includes prizes like the Marriott Seattle Waterfront, Capital Hilton, Hilton Costa Mesa, Hilton Tucson El Conquistador and Marriott Legacy Center, the only one in Ashford’s backyard. Only five of the 51 hotels are not managed by their brands. In all, there are eight property managers: Marriott has 45% of the portfolio’s EBITDA; Remington Hotels, 22%; Hilton, 18%; and Hyatt, 8%. Seventeen properties are owned in joint ventures, with interests ranging from 70% to 89%. In the release, Bennett says talks have begun to restructure management pacts to increase EBITDA.

Bennett says the past several months have been spent on integrating the assets, fine-tuning financing, value-add planning and de-leveraging the balance sheet. Ashford team has crafted a plan that includes asset sales totaling nearly $570 million in two transactions and additional joint ventures. The REIT also has earmarked $55 million for cap ex in the first year.

Ashford assumed $436.9 million of debt at an average 6.08% interest rate with existing joint ventures. The Charlotte, NC-based Wachovia Securities provided financing: $928.5 million in a 10-year fixed CMBS at 5.95%; $555.1-million pool of floating rate CMBS at 165 points over Libor; $325-million, one-year loan with a two-year extension at 150 basis points over Libor; and $200-million revolver with a three-year term at 155 to 195 basis points over Libor predicated by the loan-to-value ratio. The blended all-in cost is 6.49%.

The hotels average 14.5 years old, with the upper-upscale component contributing 65% of the trailing EBITDA. The portfolio’s 2006 RevPAR was $99.51 and average daily rate was $138 or 14% higher than Ashford’s existing portfolio. The 51 hotels grossed $689 million last year.

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