Travelport: IPO still a consideration, admits mistakes made with introduction of Agility
Travelport says a listing of the business on the public markets is still “an option for the future” although such a move is not a active part of its overall strategy.
The company will consider an IPO “as and when the markets are right”, president and CEO Gordon Wilson confirms, acknowledging that its current private equity owners Blackstone, One Equity Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures will be looking for an exit in the future and a public listing is one option available to it.
Travelport’s last attempt at a public listing began almost two years ago to the day, when it filed documents at the London Stock Exchange, ahead of a similar move in Spain for fellow GDS giant Amadeus.
The plan was scrapped just three weeks later after some European markets started to show signs of weakness as financial problems hit countries such as Greece.
Amadeus eventually proceeded with its IPO in Madrid in April of the same year.
But with Sabre also recently suggesting it would consider a public listing at some point, something Wilson says he would welcome and consider good for the sector, attention is inevitably turning once again to Travelport’s next move.
Such talk is a far cry from just four months ago when Travelport was on the brink of a forced entry into Chapter 11 as it attempted to extend the terms of its debt repayment plan.
It eventually secured – via its parent company Travelport Holdings – an agreement to delay the PIK loan repayment until 2016, a move which Wilson says has “liberated” the business.
“I am no longer talking to them [investors] about the PIK – the debt is behind us,” he says, outlining how the refinancing gave the company some capital for investment in product and services, as well as for potential small acquisitions.
Meanwhile, chief operating officer Kurt Ekert says some lessons have been learned from its recent attempt to launch a new agent desktop platform and introduce fees for services.
Travelport altered some of the terms for its Agility programme in the Americas following an outcry from some agency groups in the US and Canada.
Ekert says the changes were made following “feedback from customers”, but admits with hindsight that they should have been more pro-active with agents (“we would have gotten there first with the new product”) before announcing the introduction of fees.
“We allowed the conversation to be about commercials, when the intent for us was that it was supposed to be about technology,” he says.
However, Ekert believes that its decision to launch the Agility bundle is a sound one and has the right motivation behind it.
He adds: “We think it is important to pull customers along with new technology, because it is hard to get people to change.”
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.