DALLAS-Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc., coming off a $2.4-billion portfolio buy, is evaluating $400 million of assets for sale. The 10 hotels, totaling 3,553 keys, originally were eyed as a way to de-leverage the CNL Hotels & Resorts Inc. acquisition, but swift post-takeover maneuvers already have put the local REIT below its preferred 60% ceiling.

A second wave of sales were disclosed in yesterday’s earnings call in which Ashford’s trio of top executives outlined moves that have driven down the company’s debt level to 57%. “We have achieved it in just a few days,” Douglas Kessler, REIT COO and acquisitions chief, told analysts and shareholders, who were keenly aware that it was projected to take as long as one year to return to below the 60% mark.

Ashford has a seven-hotel portfolio poised to change hands in mid-May. Another four assets will be sold before the quarter ends. From the onset, Ashford’s leaders have said sales would be used to de-leverage the CNL buyout, but the prospective passes now constitute more routine pruning.

Under evaluation for sale are the 494-room JW Marriott at 614 Canal St. in New Orleans; 309-room Marriott BWI at 1743 W. Marriott Rd. in Baltimore; 631-room Doubletree Crystal City at 300 Army Navy Dr. in Arlington, VA; 772-room Hyatt Regency at 600 Town Center Dr. in Dearborn, MI; 224-room Hilton Suites at 2300 Featherstone Dr. in Auburn Hills, MI; 446-room Hilton Rye Town at 699 Westchester Ave. in Rye Brook, NY; 205-room Hilton Birmingham Perimeter Park at 8 Perimeter Park South in Birmingham, AL; 248-suite Residence Inn at 3701 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance, CA; 128-suite Residence Inn Atlanta Perimeter West at 6096 Barfield Rd. in Atlanta; and 96-suite Residence Inn at 2975 Main St. in Kansas City, MO.

Kessler said the assets being eyed for sale aren’t as high quality as what was picked up from Boca Raton, FL-based CNL. In fact, he adds some of the earmarked assets have long-term value, but aren’t adding much to the immediate game. That long-term value for properties like the Rye Brook, NY hotel, which has extra developable land, will be under the microscope as the team makes its final decision. “We don’t know how many we might pull back,” Kessler emphasized.

Monty J. Bennett, Ashford president and CEO, reported it’s collected $90 million of its projected $170 million in sales for a net gain of $35 million from first-quarter sales. The balance will come with the next two transactions.

But the de-leveraging strategy’s coup was raising $549 million in a follow-on stock offering. “We couldn’t be in better shape right now in terms of integration and financing, especially three weeks after closing,” Bennett said.

Proceeds from the capital campaign were used to retire a $325-million term loan taken out for one year at 150 basis points over Libor to help finance the CNL deal; $180-million floating-rate CMBS debt; and $45 million in other loans bearing an average 6.9% interest rate. “We have made significant progress,” Kessler says.

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