AXA, Permira to form online travel giant

The firms have teamed up to acquire online travel agent Opodo, owned by travel group Amadeus. AXA and Permira plan to merge Opodo with two other internet travel companies.

AXA Private Equity and London-headquartered Permira have teamed up to acquire online travel agent Opodo for €450 million.

The two firms bid against each other for ownership of internet travel companies GoVoyages and eDreams in 2010. AXA won the auction for GoVoyages in May, but was outbid by Permira for eDreams in July. The two firms plan to merge GoVoyages, eDreams and Opodo after closing the transaction, which is subject to board approval.

Opodo is being sold by Madrid-based travel technology group Amadeus. BC Partners and Cinven, which acquired Amadeus in 2005, took the company public in April 2010, each retaining a 15 percent ownership stake. The firms sold a further €617 million stake in the company in October 2010. 

Opodo's €450 million sale price represents a multiple of 11.7x of the company's 2010 EBITDA.

AXA and Permira both declined to comment on the deal.

Permira purchased eDreams from TA Associates for between €250 million and €300 million in July 2010, two sources confirmed at the time. eDreams operates in Spain, Italy and Portugal and is increasing its presence in 15 other countries, according to a statement issued at the time of the sale. The company connects consumers and travel agents with hotels, airlines and car rental companies.

AXA Private Equity acquired French online travel agent GoVoyages in May 2010 for an undisclosed sum. The company had sales of €843 million in the 2009/2010 financial year, representing a 21 percent increase year-on-year.

Permira has invested roughly 40 percent of its funds historically in the consumer and technology sectors, a source told PEI. The acquisition of Opodo, which straddles the two industries, will allow Permira and AXA to merge the three businesses, which complement each other with product offerings and geographical presence throughout Europe.