by Michael J. Shapiro | November 13, 2013
Marriott International has signed a letter of intent to acquire South Africa's Protea hotel brands and operations. As a result, Marriott expects to become the largest hotel company in Africa, based on total number of rooms in operation and under construction. Protea operates or franchises 116 hotels across three brands, equivalent to 10,184 rooms in South Africa and six other sub-Saharan African nations. The acquisitions would nearly double Marriott's current room count to more than 23,000 rooms. Protea's inventory consists primarily of the Protea Hotels brand, which includes 104 properties, most of which are in South Africa. The lodging company also runs 10 hotels in its luxury African Pride Hotels collection, and has two boutique properties flying its Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! flag. The lodging companies have not disclosed specific terms of the acquisition, but they do expect to sign definitive agreements by the end of this year and close the transaction within the first three months of 2014. Under the agreement, Marriott would own the Protea brands and operate the hotels, but would not own the properties themselves.