Everyone in the travel industry is waiting to see how the purchase of Starwood Hotels & Resorts will go. Just a couple days back, Chinese investment group Anbang overbid Marriott International by $400 million for the proposed acquisition of Starwoods, and is now being viewed as the likely buyer. We have been over that in another post.
Barclays Analyst Mark DeVries says American Express has a reason to root for Anbang’s purchase of the hotel group. The credit card company has long been offering a highly successful co-branded credit card with Starwood for some time, which brings guests at the hotel properties a chance to earn rewards for purchasing items unrelated to hotel activities. If Marriott absorbs the hotel and resort chain, chances are it would cancel any agreement with AmEx, in order to market its own credit card to customers.
Marriott’s rewards scheme is better at rewarding loyalists for hotel-related purchases, mainly inside the properties. Moreover, Starwood’s popular SPG program is costlier to fund than Marriott’s own. Besides all that, there is also the fact that parallel offerings would be disruptive to maintaining a solid loyalty following, points to the increased possibility that Marriott will merge the SPG with its own rewards program.
Unless Anbang Insurance Group, the consortium of Chinese investors manages to acquire Starwood, AmEx is looking at a huge loss. The chances of this remain slim right now, so the credit card giant is probably expecting a significant decline in earnings. A Marriott acquisition would also affect consumers who have been getting and redeeming rewards from the joint program with Starwood. SPG being replaced by Marriott’s own loyalty program would lower the value of points from around 2.5 cents apiece to somewhere below 1 cent.
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