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Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE:MAR) released its earnings report today for the first quarter of 2012. The company posted earnings per share of  $0.30 and showed revenues o$2.5 billion billion for the period. The annoncement was viewed by investors and analysts alike who see Marriott as a solid investment looking forward.

Analysts had expected the company to earn $0.29 in the period (an 11 percent rise from the previous year) and take in $2.61 billion in revenues. Marriott’s revenue had been projected to drop below the previous year’s total of $2.78 billion by 6 percent, with a $2.61 billion for the first quarter. Marriott repurchased 4.2 million shares of the company’s common stock for $150 million during the quarter. Year-to-date through April 17, 2012

For the first quarter, Marriott had estimated that its  system-wide REVPAR would rise to 5 percent to 6 percent in North America, 4 percent to 5 percent outside North America and worldwide, 5 percent to 6 percent. It also saw total fee revenue coming in between $295 million and $305 million.

Over the last 30 days, estimates remained the same and the company had not been expected to announce any surprises in its first quarter report. It did, however, announce on Tuesday, plans to double its South American hotel portfolio by 2017. It will add a dozen hotels to its five Brazilian properties and expand its Colombian presence from two to seven.

Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites brand will foster the expansion and the hotel will increase employment from the expansion to 27,000, up from 13,000, also by 2017.

Marriott’s Stock

The stock brings a number of positives including a strong pipeline, substantial international presence, a strong balance sheet, aggressive buyback strategy, lower operating cost structure and increased market share. In addition, the company’s top line had been expected to improve even more so thanks to a strong demand along with group business gaining some traction.

But the company is not without its challenges. One it is facing and will continue to do so for awhile, is the soft travel in Europe from the continuing uncertainty in the economy. In addition, as the biggest publicly traded U.S. hotel chain, it does deal with solid competition from the major hotel chains and in the regional markets, independent companies are threatening.

Its competitor, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: HOT), will announce its first quarter earnings on April 26, 2012.

Marriott is currently up 2.5% on the earnings news.