NEW YORK -- The price for Starwood Hotels (HOT) continues to rocket higher, with the latest bid from China insurance company Anbang and its partners crossing the $15 billion mark.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., whose properties include the St. Regis New York, said Monday that the offer from the Anbang group is "reasonably likely" to be superior than the one made just last week by Marriott International (MAR).
The blitz by Anbang into the U.S. real estate market has repeatedly knocked askew the ambitions of Marriott, which has been attempting to add Starwood's posh stable of hotels to its portfolio since last year.
Marriott bid $12.2 billion for the Greenwich, Connecticut, hotel in November and most had expected that Marriott would become the biggest hotel in the world when it completed the deal.
But few had realized the ambition, or motivation, of Anbang, even though it had made a big splash in the U.S. real estate market just two years ago when it acquired the famed Waldorf Astoria of York for almost $2 billion.
That became a bit clearer earlier this month, even before it challenged Marriott for control of Starwood, when it laid down $6.5 billion to acquire Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., which owns several high-end properties including the JW Marriott Essex House in New York.
Industry analysts say this may be a fight Marriott can't win, or shouldn't, because Anbang is being driven by the desire to get its money out of China and into U.S. assets.
The newest offer is from Anbang is for $88.66 per Starwood share, or $15.03 billion. That tops the latest bid of $14.41 billion that Marriott International Inc. offered last week.
Anbang's offer includes $82.75 per share in cash, which is an increase of $4.75 per share from its previous bid. The bid also includes $5.91 in stock for a spinoff of a vacation business.
Whoever gains control of Starwood will likely be entering Cuba, as well.
Starwood this month became the first U.S. hotel operator to gain access to Cuba during the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in almost 90 years.
Starwood said Monday that its board has not changed its recommendation in support of a deal with Marriott.