* Total deal values through May down from year ago
* Marriott looks to add brands
* REITs expected to become more active
By Karen Jacobs
June 5 (Reuters) - The value of U.S. hotel deals for the first five months of 2012 came to $5.1 billion, down from $6.4 billion a year earlier, research from Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels indicated as attendees at a New York hospitality industry conference said they expected more hotel transactions this year.
The hotel investment services firm said the average price per room for single hotels that were bought so far this year topped $194,000, five percent higher than the level for all of 2011.
Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels said strength in hotel operating fundamentals such as room rates was underpinning investor confidence to do deals.
The firm said it expected more transactions over the next six months, as a survey of more than 6,000 hotel investors and owners showed that nearly half intended to acquire properties.
Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels added its survey indicated investor intentions to sell assets were at a four-year high.
The business-led recovery has helped lift U.S. hotel occupancy rates and aided an industry whose financing challenges have slowed construction.
Despite concerns about debt troubles in Europe and economic uncertainty in the United States, some noted hotel transactions have been announced in recent weeks.
Blackstone Group, which owns Hilton Worldwide, agreed to buy U.S. budget chains Motel 6 and Studio 6 from France’s Accor for $1.2 billion in late May. Last week, Marriott International said it would pay $210 million to assume management of Gaylord Entertainment’s convention-focused hotels.
“Both deals indicate that the capital markets are there for transactions,” Thomas Corcoran, chairman and co-founder of FelCor Lodging Trust, told Reuters at the New York University International Hospitality Industry conference on Monday.
Felcor, a real estate investment trust, announced on Monday it had sold six hotels for $103 million.
“While the market’s not robust, there is activity and transactions are getting done,” Corcoran added.
Marriott Chief Executive Arne Sorenson said during a panel discussion at the New York hospitality conference that his company planned to spend its capital to add brands and assets.
Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels said private equity funds had become the most active hotel buyers, representing 52 percent of U.S. transactions in the first five months of 2012.
Real estate investment trusts, which led transaction activity in the first five months of 2011, accounted for 25 percent of hotel deal volumes through May of this year. A REIT uses pooled capital to purchase and manage property but must pay dividends.
“REITS remain active bidders for a number of hotel transactions, and are expected to be increasingly active in the market in 2012,” said Arthur Adler, Americas CEO for Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, which is a unit of Jones Lang LaSalle. (Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by David Cowell)