By Olivia Oran
Dec 12 (Reuters) - Shares of Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc , the world’s largest hotel operator, rose more than 9 percent in afteroon trading during their New York Stock Exchange debut on Thursday.
The stock climbed as high as $21.92 after Blackstone Group LP raised more than $2.3 billion in the year’s second-biggest IPO.
The shares were priced at $20 Wednesday night, within the expected range of $18 to $21. Hilton and existing shareholders sold 117.6 million shares in the IPO.
Blackstone took Hilton private in 2007 for $26.7 billion, including debt, in one of the largest leveraged buyouts before the 2008 global financial crisis.
Founded in 1919 by Conrad Hilton, Hilton’s brands include such high-end names as Conrad and Waldorf Astoria.
Hilton, which operates in 90 countries, has more than 4,000 hotels and 670,000 rooms under its umbrella.
The company itself owns or leases 157 hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria in New York and the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The U.S. hotel industry has been recovering, with room rates and occupancy levels expected to increase in 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Dow Jones U.S. Hotels index has risen nearly 30 percent so far this year.
The hotel sector “is a very attractive sector to be in as the fundamentals are very strong in the U.S. and you have a real expansion story in the emerging markets,” said Ryan Meliker, senior analyst at investment bank MLV & Co.
Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley led the IPO.