The tour and travel industry in Europe and, in particular, in the UK, seems more focused on the day-to-day drama revolving about the future of Thomas Cook—its stock price has dropped more than 80 percent in the past year and it can’t seem to find the right customer for which part(s) of the company it is trying to sell off in order to get some cash so that it can survive—than it does other major developments that, for the most part, reflect a generally healthy industry that continues to attract investors and suitors. Some of the major transactions involving major industry players in recent weeks include the following:
—Air Canada seems to have concluded the steps necessary to effect its takeover of the Canadian tour operator and airline group Transat for $400 million. Transat’s board of directors approved the agreement even though there was a later offer that was $C14 per share vs. Air Canada’s C$13 per share. The agreement is subject to shareholder groups as well as government regulatory authorities. Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu said his company intends to preserve the Transat and Air Transat brands and maintain the Transat head office and its key functions in Montreal.
—Lego Owner Leads Takeover of Merlin: The Danish billionaire family that owns Lego—KIRKBI, the Kirk Kristiansen family’s private holding and investment company— is leading a consortium to take over Merlin Entertainments, the second largest theme park operator in the world after Disney—its brands include Legoland; Alton Towers; Madame Tussauds attractions in more than 20 cities worldwide; Sea Life attractions in some 50 cities and the London Eye and three other Eye locations; and countless other properties. The deal by KIRKBI, a 29 percent shareholder in Merlin, was valued at $6.1 billion by Bloomberg. The private equity firm Blackstone Group and Canadian pension fund CPPIB were also a part of the consortium.
—Two Canadian based companies have been acquired by European travel giant Etraveli Group, which is headquartered near Stockholm, Sweden. Flight Network and its B2B division Huntington Travel, along and travel technology startup TripStack, will join Etraveli group in August; by which time competition authorities are expected to approve the acquisition. Founded in 2000 and Headquartered in Uppsala, Sweden, Etraveli Group operates with multiple brands in more than 50 markets globally with strong positions in the Nordics, UK, France and Germany but also a noteworthy presence in Southern Europe, Australia and specific markets in Asia and the Middle East. The acquisitions give the Group a significant position now in North America as well. TripStack Co-founder and FlightNetwork CEO Naman Budhdeo said the purchase will aggregate low cost carrier flights and put together virtual interline connections that were previously not available. The industry will see an enhanced B2B product from Huntington,” Budhdeo told the trade publication TravelPulse Canada. “It will be flights they can’t get with any other operator, we’ll give them the full breadth of low coast carrier options. 1.7 million Canadians fly from Buffalo for example. Agents will now have the content right there for them to offer low cost carriers like Jet Blue or Allegiant to purchase, allowing more visibility and options to offer their customers.”
—Germany’s DER Touristik Group is selling off its business travel operation to American Express Global Business Travel (GBT). The deal, for an undisclosed sum, requires anti-trust approvals and is expected to close in the third quarter of the year. The corporate travel business of DER, the third-largest tour operator in Germany, operates in 42 locations across Germany with about 600 staff. DER Touristik is parent company of Kuoni, which operates in 15 European countries. As such, the purchase would expand GBT’s footprint into Germany’s small and mid-sized companies. In addition, DER’s corporate clients would have access to GBT’s travel and expense systems and core technology platform.