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Hilton IPO Aims for Record Payday

Finally – some news about Hilton that doesn’t involve Paris (the person, not the city).

Hilton Worldwide, the global hotel chain with a portfolio of more than 4,000 hotels, is going public. The Hilton IPO was filed with the SEC today, with the goal of raising up to $1.25 billion in its initial offering. Should that happen, it would make the Hilton IPO the largest initial public offering by a lodging company – surpassing the $1.09 billion raised by Hyatt Hotels (NYSE: H) in 2009.

For Hilton, the IPO filing is merely a return to the norm. The company used to be public until Blackstone Group bought it out and took it private in 2007. Blackstone paid $26 billion for Hilton in one of the largest-ever debt-fueled takeovers. At the time, Hilton hotels were struggling to attract customers as the financial crisis was getting underway.

Under Blackstone’s management, Hilton’s balance sheet has improved. Through the first six months of 2013, Hilton’s profits increased 66% from a year ago, while its revenue rose 2.7%.

Still, the hotel giant remains saddled with debt. In its SEC filing, Hilton indicated that it intends to use some of its IPO proceeds to pay down debt. According to the filing, the company plans to refinance about $13.5 billion in debt.

As the global economy has recovered, customers have come back to Hilton – a high-end hotel conglomerate that also owns the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotel franchises. Occupancy and room rates have also improved in recent years.

Like much of the housing market and U.S. stocks in general, hotel stocks are thriving this year. Hyatt Hotels shares have risen 19% in 2013. Marriott International (NYSE: MAR) is up more than 15% year-to-date. Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE: WYN) is up nearly 17%.

The Hilton IPO also comes at a time when initial public offerings are red-hot. One hundred thirty-one companies have gone public on U.S. exchanges this year – up 44% from this time a year ago. The average IPO has returned 32% from its offer price in 2013.

So Hilton is jumping in while the IPO waters are quite warm.