Marriott International and Starwood Hotels and Resorts are set to merge creating the world’s largest hotel company. The combined company will own or franchise more than 5,500 hotels (that’s 1.1 million rooms worldwide).

The merge will give Marriott greater presence in markets such as Europe, Latin America and Asia. There is also potential for the two brands to combine their rewards programs. Marriott Rewards currently has 54 million members and Starwood Preferred Guest has 21 million members.

“The driving force behind this transaction is growth,” says president and CEO of Marriott International Arne Sorenson.

“This is an opportunity to create value by combining the distribution and strengths of Marriott and Starwood, enhancing our competitiveness in a quickly evolving marketplace. This greater scale should offer a wider choice of brands to consumers, improve economics to owners and franchisees, increase unit growth, and enhance long-term value to shareholders.”

“The driving force behind this transaction is growth,”

mariott to buy starwood

It’s expected that this merger will accelerate the growth of Starwood’s brands, leveraging Marriott’s worldwide development. It will bring together 30 brands across all lodging segments, from Starwood’s higher-end W-Hotels, St. Regis and Westin brands to Marriott’s limited-service offerings such as Courtyard and Residence Inn.

The cost: $17.2 Billion AUD

“We are excited to play a vital role in the creation of the biggest and best hotel company in the world with tremendous upside potential,” says Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide CEO Adam Aron.

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Shareholders reacted with some skepticism to the bid, which represents a 4% discount to the company’s closing price Friday. Starwood shares fell 3.6%

The deal is expected to be completed by mid-2016. We will bring you more updates as they come, so subscribe below for more updates: