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Yesterday Wyndham had a call to discuss its announcement that it was going to self fund its timeshare development business given that the asset backed securitization market is essentially closed and showing no signs of improvement for 2009. Basically, WYN is reducing its sales velocity by approximately 40% from 2008 levels to get the business to a level where it can drive positive FCF and become self-funding.

Like other development businesses, timeshare is capital intensive and typically cash flow negative when the business is growing rapidly. There is no revenue recognized until the building is complete and over 10% of the purchase price has been collected. However, when the business is being wound down, it throws off a material amount of cash. The average duration of a timeshare loan is about 7 years currently.

Since 2000, the timeshare industry has grown at a 14.5% CAGR, driven by demand, abundant and cheap financing, exchange programs (RCI & Interval International) and introduction of new products (fractionals, condo hotels). Marriott, Starwood, and Wyndham have been beneficiaries of this trend, experiencing an average CAGR of 19% from 2003-2007 in their timeshare business.

According to our calculation the industry will need to contract by about 45% from peak levels in order to become “self funding.” Currently most sell-side analysts model some contraction for 2009, with a large rebound thereafter. If the industry needs to become self-funding, it will take many years to return to 2007 sales velocity.

We’re pretty sure we’re not going to see the same hockey stick growth in timeshare experienced earlier this decade. Timeshare growth will likely be constrained to funding availability and free cash flow generation. Investors looking for growth may want to look elsewhere.

For those focused on cash flow like us, the winding down of timeshare development is a positive event. The Street is likely to understate the potential cash flow generation of this business in the coming years. We’ll have much more to say on this soon. Also, the evaporation of the credit market might be a blessing in disguise by forcing companies to trim development activity proactively before demand falls apart as it has for most large discretionary leisure purchases. This cutting back should minimize the inevitable future write-downs and growing delinquencies as the value of inventory gets written down and the rate of defaults on loans accelerates.

We are not yet ready to pound the table on the lodging sector. However, despite the near term earnings drag from turning timeshare into a self-funding vehicle, the FCF picture for MAR, HOT, and WYN should improve dramatically.

Anna Massion