Hoteliers and insurers are scrambling to assess their exposure to the massive tidal waves that left a path of destruction in southern Asia, killing as many as 22,000 people.
Analysts caution that it's too soon to quantify precisely the impact on the two industries. However, initial reports from two hotel companies trading on U.S. exchanges suggest damage to their properties is minor. And analysts said insurers are unlikely to see significant losses.
Still, shares in both sectors logged losses Monday. The Dow Jones U.S. Hotels Index lost as much as 0.8% to 504.91, and the Standard & Poor's Insurance Index fell as much as 0.9% to 317.00.
The tidal waves, which are known by the Japanese word tsunami, resulted from the world's largest earthquake in four decades. Exploding underwater near the northwestern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the 9.0-magnitude quake sent waves slamming into coastal regions and islands in a rough semicircle stretching from the Maldives, a group of islands about 600 miles off the southern tip of India, to parts of Indonesia. Deaths were reported as far west as the east coast of Africa.
The worst-hit areas included popular beach resorts such as the island of Phuket, just off Thailand's southwest coast.
reported damage at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa. In a press release, the company said damage was minor and confined to the beach, gardens and pool area. Two beachfront restaurants and some ground-level beachfront suites have been closed, but will reopen in about 10 days. The rest of the hotel is operational. A spokeswoman said Marriott, which manages the resort, had not yet calculated the cost of the damage but stressed it was minor. She said one employee had suffered minor injuries and a guest had suffered a heart attack following the tsunami, but both were recovering.
Marriott shares were off 29 cents, or 0.5%, at $62.95, after trading as low as $62.50.
Across the Indian Ocean to the west, Kerzner International Limited
reported flooding at its two properties in the Maldives but said initial reports did not indicate any other "significant damage." In a news release, the company said it knew of no injuries.
In the Maldives, Kerzner manages and owns a 20% stake of the 100-room One&Only Kanuhura. It also manages the 130-room One&Only Reethi Rah, which is expected to open in the second quarter of 2005. Kerzner said the Kanuhura property has asset protection and business interruption insurance that covers flooding, although the policies have "limited" deductibles. The Reethi Rah has a construction insurance policy, which Kerzner expects will cover damages. Kerzner, which is headquartered in The Bahamas, expects to record 2004 management fees and equity earnings from the Maldives properties of about $2 million.
Kerzner stock was off 6 cents, or 0.1%, at $60.26.
also may have sustained damage at some of its resorts. The luxury hotel company has a Maldives resort and plans to open one in the Langkawi islands off the west coast of Malaysia early next year. Spokespeople at the Toronto-based hotel company did not return phone calls. Four Seasons stock was down 18 cents, or 0.2%, at $82.87.
plans to open a luxury resort on Phuket under its luxury Conrad Hotels brand next year. There is already a Hilton resort on Phuket, but like other Hilton-branded properties outside the United States, it is managed by Hilton International, a separate company whose parent trades on the London Stock Exchange. A Hilton spokesman didn't return a phone call seeking comment. Hilton Hotels shares were unchanged at $22.56.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
may have avoided the tsunamis entirely. Although the company has a slew of hotels in Indonesia, they all appear to be located outside the areas that were flooded. Spokespeople did not return calls seeking comment. The company's stock was up 21 cents, or 0.4%, to $58.71.
Still, large hotel chains could see an indirect impact on their businesses if travelers cancel trips to Asia, even to places unaffected by the tsunamis. Some Turkish travelers already had canceled January trips to Bali, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, The Associated Press
Analysts said the tsunamis would likely affect insurance companies, although preliminary expectations are that losses won't be significant.
"Economic damage from flooding could cost billions of dollars, but insured damage could be a fraction of this amount because most of the impacted areas are not heavily insured, and it is unclear how much flood damage will be covered," wrote Prudential Equity Group analyst Jay Gelb in a research note.
Of the companies Gelb covers, the ones with the most exposure to property catastrophe reinsurance include Renaissance Re
, XL Capital
and ACE Limited
. "At this early stage, we suspect none of these companies to incur significant losses," Gelb wrote. (Prudential does and seeks to do business with companies its analysts cover.)
Renaissance Re traded down 55 cents, or 1.1%, at $51.00, while XL Capital was down 55 cents, or 0.7%, at $77.92, and ACE Limited was off 31 cents, or 0.7%, at $41.84.