June 15, 2017 / 8:01 PM / 5 months ago

Exclusive: Timeshare operator ILG Inc explores merger - sources

(Reuters) - ILG Inc (ILG.O), a U.S. provider of vacation timeshare properties, is holding early-stage talks about merging with another company after coming under pressure from activist shareholder FrontFour Capital Group, people familiar with the matter said.

The talks come as the timeshare industry seeks to improve its occupancy rates and shed its reputation of locking customers into complex contracts they do not understand, in the hope of becoming a more popular alternative for many U.S. holidaymakers.

ILG is working with investment bank Moelis & Co (MC.N) as it fields merger interest, the sources said. Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corp (VAC.N) and Hilton Grand Vacations Inc (HGV.N) are among the companies that have held talks with ILG, the sources added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Marriott Vacations and Moelis declined to comment, while ILG and Hilton Grand Vacations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ILG shares rose as much as 10 percent and ended trading up 6.5 percent, giving the company a market value of $3.5 billion.

A timeshare is an agreement in which several joint owners share the right to use a given property or vacation home.

Based in Miami, ILG is the exclusive global licensee for the Hyatt, Westin and Sheraton vacation ownership brands.

As of the end of December, it had a total of 41 resorts within its Vistana Signature Experiences and Hyatt Vacation Ownership businesses, and managed about 250 resorts overall, while serving more than 2 million members through various membership and exchange programs.

Last month hedge fund FrontFour, owner of 2 percent of ILG’s stock, wrote an open letter to the company’s management urging it to seek a combination with Marriott, which has a market value of $3.4 billion.

FrontFour said that if ILG does not act on the recommendation, it will “review all of (its) options including but not limited to taking action at ILG’s 2018 annual meeting.”

Last year, ILG acquired Vistana Signature Experiences, the timeshare business of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, for more than $1 billion in cash and stock.

Reporting by Carl O'Donnell and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Michael Flaherty in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Rigby

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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