The Bev Hills-based chain, now privately owned by the Blackstone Group, is looking especially at China and India, where the hotel biz is in its "absolute infancy," according to CEO Chris Nasetta. The plan is to manage 300 hotels over the next 10 years (Hilton currently operates 47 in all of Asia). International expansion has become a priority because it's still relatively unexplored - and potentially way more lucrative than expansion in the U.S. From the WSJ:
Hilton is focusing initially on India, where it has a joint-venture with a local property firm, DLF Ltd., that aims to open 75 hotels within the next five years, Mr. Nassetta said. Starting in India's big cities, where the dense population limits the availability of land suitable for international-standard hotels, Hilton plans to introduce its Hilton Hotels, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn brands. DLF's property holdings should give Hilton an edge over some of its competitors, said Koos Klein, president of in the Asia Pacific region. "In India, a lot of people have plans, but not a lot of land. DLF does," Mr. Klein said. Hilton operates no hotels in India.
So what's the endgame in all this? Well, Blackstone is a private equity firm, and those folks are not in the business of holding onto their assets forever. They want to come in, grow the company and sell it a few years down the road. "They are acting as our balance sheet, which is good. It means more money for development," says Hilton executive Koos Klein in the China Economic Review. "But private equity is opportunistic and the company is extremely active in gearing for growth."