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Marriott's Sorenson: 'We have zero buyer's remorse'

Therewas a palpable sense of relief in MarriottInternational Inc. President and CEO Arne Sorenson'svoice in opening remarks on an April 1 conference call held hours after theAnbang Insurance Group Co.-ledconsortium backed outof its bid for Starwood Hotels& Resorts Worldwide Inc.

"We'reabsolutely thrilled to be here," Sorenson said. "We have zero buyer'sremorse."

Sorenson walked call participants through the events of thelast few months, since Marriott made its initial play for Starwood, and touchedon the M&A fireworks of the last couple of weeks, as Anbang's higher offersemerged. Sorenson said Marriott is "thrilled and enthused" by theMarriott-Starwood that is, at present, the only binding deal on the table. He called theprospective combination "extraordinarily powerful" and held up themerging of the companies' respective loyalty programs as perhaps the mostprofound prospective strategic advantage.

"We think we've got the real possibility of saying tofolks, 'You actually don't need to belong to any other hotel loyalty program.Because we have the ability to satisfy you no matter what purpose of thetravel, no matter the place that you're going.'"

Thecompanies are aiming for a mid-2016 close, Sorenson said. Most closingconditions have been satisfied, but the companies are still waiting forapproval from the European Union and from China on anti-competition grounds andfor the spinoff of Starwood's timeshare business.

StarwoodCEO Tom Mangas' prepared remarks were relatively brief.

"First,I want to say how excited we are for this combination. All the benefits thatArne just enumerated we absolutely believe in," Mangas said, affirmingSorenson's calculation of $250 million in synergies. The Marriott offer is theonly deal on the table, he said.

"I want let you know that having been part of thisprocess for a full year, having met with many of my competitors who were partof this process, with Arne, we have … confidence in the Marriott team's abilityto drive successful combination and integration."

Both Sorenson and Mangas encouraged shareholders on the callthe vote in favor of the prospective transaction.