AT&T, Starwood, Marriott working on Cuba deals ahead of Obama visit

Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:13pm EST
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By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least three major U.S. companies, AT&T Inc (T.N: Quote), Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc HOT.N and Marriott International Inc (MAR.O: Quote), are seeking to complete deals in Cuba as President Barack Obama prepares to visit Havana, a person familiar with the discussions said on Friday.

The flurry of deal-making could help Obama use his historic March 20-22 trip to showcase what he sees as the benefits of Washington’s diplomatic opening with the former Cold War foe after decades of hostility. It will be the first visit to Cuba by a U.S. president in nearly 90 years. But even as Obama prepares to unveil further measures next week to chip away at decades-old restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba, the longstanding U.S. economic embargo strictly limits efforts by American companies to do business on the communist-ruled island.

AT&T is trying to complete a mobile communications agreement with Cuba's state telecoms monopoly Etecsa, while Starwood is also weighing an announcement, according to the source, who was briefed by administration and company officials.

ATT declined comment.

A source familiar with AT&T's negotiations said: "While there are discussions with Etecsa, there is no agreement in place."

Starwood said it “has applied for authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department to operate hotels in Cuba.”

“We see many opportunities for the expansion of our brands into Cuba at this inflection point, and look forward to building long-term relationships and welcoming travelers into our hotels in this dynamic market.”

Marriott spokesman Thomas Marder said: “We are optimistic that we are going to get a green light soon from the U.S. government to have hotels under the Marriott flag in Cuba.”   Continued...

People walk past the AT&T store in New York's Times Square, June 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid