A Blackstone Group affiliate has agreed to buy hotel chain La Quinta Corporation and La Quinta Properties (NYSE:LQI) for $3.4 billion. The sale price represents a 37% premium above La Quinta’s closing price of $8.22 yesterday.

Dallas-based La Quinta owns and operates 360 hotels and franchises more than 240 hotels in 39 states under various flags. Blackstone Group is one of the largest private equity firms in the world. The firm has raised more than $8 billion in total equity through six separate funds.

“We are pleased to have signed a merger agreement with one of the world’s preeminent owners of hotels and resorts. Blackstone was attracted by our strong brands, high quality hotels, excellent management team and operating culture that is focused on delivering superior guest satisfaction,” says Francis Cash, chairman and chief executive officer at La Quinta.

The merger is expected to close during the first quarter of 2006.