We make forward-looking statements in Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and elsewhere in this report based on the beliefs and assumptions of our management and on information currently available to us. Forward-looking statements include information about our possible or assumed future results of operations, which follow under the headings “Business and Overview,” “Liquidity and Capital Resources,” and other statements throughout this report preceded by, followed by or that include the words “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “intends,” “plans,” “estimates” or similar expressions.
Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in these forward-looking statements, including the risks and uncertainties described below and other factors we describe from time to time in our periodic filings with the SEC. We therefore caution you not to rely unduly on any forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements in this report speak only as of the date of this report, and we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.
Risks and Uncertainties
We are subject to various risks that could have a negative effect on the Company and its financial condition. You should understand that these risks could cause results to differ materially from those expressed in forward-looking statements contained in this report and in other Company communications. Because there is no way to determine in advance whether, or to what extent, any present uncertainty will ultimately impact our business, you should give equal weight to each of the following:
Lodging and Timeshare Industry Risks
Our industries are highly competitive, which may impact our ability to compete successfully with other hotel and timeshare properties for customers. We generally operate in markets that contain numerous competitors. Each of our hotel and timeshare brands competes with major hotel chains in national and international venues and with independent companies in regional markets. Our ability to remain competitive and to attract and retain business and leisure travelers depends on our success in distinguishing the quality, value, and efficiency of our lodging products and services from those offered by others. If we are unable to compete successfully in these areas, this could limit our operating margins, diminish our market share, and reduce our earnings.
We are subject to the range of operating risks common to the hotel, timeshare, and corporate apartment industries. The profitability of the hotels, vacation timeshare resorts, and corporate apartments that we operate or franchise may be adversely affected by a number of factors, including:
- the availability of and demand for hotel rooms, timeshare interval, fractional ownership, and residential products, and apartments;
- pricing strategies of our competitors;
- international, national, and regional economic and geopolitical conditions;
- the impact of war, actual or threatened terrorist activity and heightened travel security measures instituted in response to war, terrorist activity or threats, and civil unrest;
- the desirability of particular locations and changes in travel patterns;
- travelers’ fears of exposure to contagious diseases, such as H1N1 Flu, Avian Flu and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (“SARS”);
- the occurrence of natural or man-made disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and oil spills;
- events that may be beyond our control that could affect the reputation of one or more of our properties or more generally impact the reputation of our brands;
- taxes and government regulations that influence or determine wages, prices, interest rates, construction procedures, and costs;
- the costs and administrative burdens associated with compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including, among others, those associated with franchising, timeshare, lending, privacy, marketing and sales, licensing, labor, employment, immigration, the environment, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act;
- the availability and cost of capital to allow us and potential hotel owners and joint venture partners to fund investments;
- regional and national development of competing properties;
- increases in wages and other labor costs, energy, healthcare, insurance, transportation and fuel, and other expenses central to the conduct of our business or the cost of travel for our customers, including recent increases in energy costs and any resulting increase in travel costs or decrease in airline capacity;
- organized labor activities, which could cause the diversion of business from hotels involved in labor negotiations, loss of group business, and/or increased labor costs;
- currency exchange fluctuations; and
- trademark or intellectual property infringement.
Any one or more of these factors could limit or reduce the demand or the prices our hotels are able to obtain for hotel rooms, timeshare units, residential units, and corporate apartments or could increase our costs and therefore reduce the profit of our lodging businesses. Reduced demand for hotels could also give rise to losses under loans, guarantees, and noncontrolling equity investments that we have made in connection with hotels that we manage. Even where such factors do not reduce demand, property-level profit margins may suffer if we are unable to fully recover increased operating costs from our guests. Similarly, our fee revenue could be impacted by weak property-level revenue or profitability.
Our hotel management and franchise agreements may also be subject to premature termination in certain circumstances, such as the bankruptcy of a hotel owner or franchisee, or a failure under some agreements to meet specified financial or performance criteria that are subject to the risks described in this section, which the Company fails or elects not to cure. A significant loss of agreements due to premature terminations could hurt our financial performance or our ability to grow our business.
General economic uncertainty and weak demand in the lodging and timeshare industries could continue to impact our financial results and growth. Weak economic conditions in the United States, Europe and much of the rest of the world and the uncertainty over the duration of these conditions could continue to have a negative impact on the lodging and timeshare industries. As a result of current economic conditions, we continue to experience weakened demand for our hotel rooms and timeshare products. Recent improvements in demand trends globally may not continue, and our future financial results and growth could be further harmed or constrained if the recovery was to stall or conditions were to worsen.
Proposed Spin-off Risk
The proposed spin-off of our Timeshare division may not occur as or when planned or at all, or could result in issues we do not yet anticipate. Unanticipated developments could delay, prevent the completion of, or otherwise adversely affect the proposed spin-off of our Timeshare division, including any problems or delays in obtaining financing for the new timeshare company, regulatory approvals, third-party consents, a favorable letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, or disruptions either in general market conditions or in the lodging or timeshare business. The transaction is also subject to final approval by our board of directors. Completion of the proposed spin-off may require significant time, effort, and expense, and may divert management’s attention from other aspects of our business operations, which could adversely affect those operations. Any delays in completion of the proposed spin-off may increase the amount of time, effort, and expense that we devote to the transaction. Moreover, we may not be able to complete the spin-off on the terms currently anticipated as a result of financing issues or accommodations we may have to make to obtain the consent of regulators or other third parties.
In addition, if we complete the proposed spin-off, the actual results may differ materially from the results we anticipate. Specifically, the proposed transaction could adversely affect our relationships with our customers or employees (including those of the Timeshare division) or disrupt our operations. The separated businesses could also face unanticipated problems in operating independently, and thus may not achieve the anticipated benefits of the separation.