French online firm delivers ‘30%-plus’ IRR

Amid signs that Internet-based companies are back in favour, Carlyle Group and Credit Lyonnais Private Equity have agreed to sell French online business travel service Egencia for an IRR of ‘over 30 percent’.

Egencia, the online business travel service, is being sold by Carlyle Group and Credit Lyonnais Private Equity for an undisclosed sum. In a statement, Carlyle claimed the sale delivered an internal rate of return of more than 30 percent. 

Egencia, which is headquartered in Paris and has additional operations in Belgium and the UK, has been acquired by IAC/InterActive Corp, the parent company of rival online business travel service Expedia. Following the deal, Egencia will become Expedia Corporate Travel Europe. It has over 500 corporate customers.

Carlyle, the Washington DC-headquartered buyout and venture investor, first backed Egencia in 2000 through its Carlyle Europe Venture Partners fund, which focuses on technology investments in Europe. Credit Lyonnais Private Equity made its first investment in the firm in 2001, and then combined with Carlyle to co-lead a final round of funding in 2003.          

“Since its creation, Egencia has delivered consistent and outstanding growth quarter after quarter,” said Fabien Prévost, a senior partner at Credit Lyonnais Private Equity. “Starting from scratch, it has gained a significant market share of the corporate travel market in little over three years, in a highly competitive and concentrated context, and a difficult economic situation.”

The deal, which is subject to shareholder approval and the finalisation of contracts, is the latest evidence that those Internet firms to have emerged intact from the downturn are now the subject of renewed interest from potential buyers and investors.

In January 2004, Iliad – the owner of Internet service provider Free – underwent an IPO on the Paris Stock Exchange that was 28 times oversubscribed. Earlier this week, French online shopping comparison service Kelkoo, which was backed by Banexi Ventures and Innovacom, was sold to Yahoo for €475 million. In the UK Newport Networks, a voice-over-Internet firm, has announced its intention to float despite not yet having any products or sales.