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Nikki Ekstein

Thought the Starwood-Marriott merger was a done deal? Not so. A week after Marriott one-upped the Chinese investment company Anbang with a counter-offer to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Anbang has returned with yet a higher bid. According to the Wall Street Journal, Marriott’s latest offer valued Starwood shares at $79.53 apiece; Anbang’s counter came in at $81, and was subsequently raised to $82.75 per share.

As we reported a few weeks ago when Anbang’s first offer broke, an acquisition by the Chinese company would likely preserve the status quo of operations at Starwood—where both its brands and loyalty program are concerned. A merger with Marriott, on the other hand, raises questions about how Starwood might (not) be able to preserve its indie spirit or its beloved SPG program. The upside of a potential Marriott acquisition: the creation of the world’s largest hotel company, and the potential for the world’s most powerful loyalty program.

So what happens now? Stockholders will have until April 8 to vote on which deal they’d like to see go through. If they choose to break up with Marriott—again—Starwood will be on the line for $450 million in fees. Then again, there’s no precluding Marriott from coming back with one more round of negotiations. As CEO Arne Sorenson has remarked recently to media, Marriott has yet to call any offer its “best and final.”

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