3 April 2014 Marriott International, the largest publicly traded hotel chain in the United States, said on Tuesday that it would continue its expansion into African markets as it completed its R2.02-billion (approximately US$200-million) acquisition of South Africa’s Protea Hospitality Holdings. The transaction makes Marriott the largest hotel company in the Middle East and Africa region, and Africa’s biggest hotel company by number of rooms in operation or under construction. Marriott’s new Protea portfolio consists of 10 148 rooms in seven African countries, with 79 hotels in South Africa and 37 hotels in Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The company said its pipeline of new hotels in the Middle East and Africa, including Protea’s pipeline, was now more than 65 hotels and 14 300 rooms, including more than 20 hotels and 3 000 rooms in Sub-Saharan Africa. “We have 25 Marriott brand hotels under construction in seven countries in Africa that will come on stream over the next four years,” Alex Kyriakidis, Marriott’s president for the Middle East and Africa, told news agency Bloomberg. “With our existing hotels plus those in the pipeline and those Protea operates today, we will be in 16 countries in Africa by 2017.” “Today marks a new beginning,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson told a press briefing on Tuesday. “We can now officially say ‘Molweni!’ [Xhosa], ‘Sawubona!’ [Zulu] and ‘Hello!’ to South Africa and ‘Welcome!’ to our approximately 15 000 new associates at both managed and franchised hotels across Protea’s portfolio.” Kyriakidis, citing a World Bank forecast for sub-Saharan Africa to grow at a more than 5 percent through 2015, added: “With the addition of Protea’s regional knowledge, expertise and infrastructure, we are incredibly well-positioned to continue growing in one of the fastest expanding economic markets in the world.” SAinfo reporter
Brittle stars are included within a whole range of species, which contribute to knowledge in the medically important area of tissue regeneration. All brittle stars regenerate lose limbs, but the rate at which this occurs is highly variable and species-specific. One of the slowest rates of arm regeneration reported so far is that of the Antarctic Ophionotus victoriae. Additionally, O. victoriae also has an unusual delay in the onset of regeneration of about 5 months. Both processes are of interest for the areas of regeneration biology and adaptation to cold environments. One method of understanding the details of regeneration events in brittle stars is to characterise the genes involved. In the largest transcriptome study of any ophiuroid to date, we describe the results of mRNA pyrosequencing from pooled samples of regenerating arms of O. victoriae. The sequencing reads resulted in 18,000 assembled contiguous sequences of which 19% were putatively annotated by blast sequence similarity searching. We focus on the identification of major gene families and pathways with potential relevance to the regenerative processes including the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, Hox genes, the SOX gene family and the TGF beta signalling pathways. These data significantly increase the amount of ophiuroid sequences publicly available and provide candidate transcripts for the further investigation of the unusual regenerative process in this Antarctic ophiuroid.