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Starwood/Marriott merger on hold; new bid on table


The proposed merger of Starwood Hotels with Marriott looked like a sure thing when it was announced months ago, but a rival bidder has jumped in with a big offer, and Marriott has until March 28 to top it or lose out.

The rival bid comes from one of the original bidders, Chinese insurance consortium Anbang, put in a fresh, and bigger, bid. Anbang is already in the U.S. hotel industry; it owns the Waldorf Astoria in NY and a chain of hotels and resorts (Strategic Hotels). If Marriott succeeds, the combined group would be the world's largest hotel group.

Watching closely from the sidelines of the fight are the legions of members of Starwood's 'Starpoints' loyalty program. The program is considered one of the best in terms of the ability to not only use the points for hotels, but fairly liberal conversion to many airline programs. Marriott had hinted it wanted to keep the "best" of the program in a probably eventual merger into Marriott's own lightweight points program. If Anbang wins, the Starpoints program will likely remain independent.

Photo: W hotels is one of Starwood's 'boutique' hotel brands.


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