U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 19 mins

Red Lion hotel operator considers possible sale

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Red Lion Hotels Corp. said Wednesday that it is considering alternatives that include selling its hotel chain.

The company, based in Spokane, Wash., said it has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to explore its options, which also could include a merging with another company.

Red Lion President and CEO Jon Eliassen said the company's management team and board are open-minded about the processes and plan to evaluate all their options to maximize shareholder value. He said the company has been working with Bank of America since February.

Red Lion Hotels will continue to operate as usual while the process is underway.

The company has been trying to improve its profitability by cutting its debt and expanding its franchise program. It recently sold a hotel in downtown Seattle, which allowed it to acquire several previously leased hotels and pay off more than $28 million in debt.

Red Lion has 48 hotels in nine western states and British Columbia in Canada. It also owns and operates an entertainment and event ticket distribution business.

In after-hours trading, the company's shares at first jumped nearly 14 percent to $9.19, but they later lost that gain and fell by a penny. Then ended regular trading, up 11 cents at $8.07.