Leading UK online travel agency Travel Republic has revealed an IPO is one of the options it is considering having brought in financial advisors from Rothschild last year.
Moves to list the business aren’t being actively pursued as yet, but Kane Pirie, the agency’s managing director, told Travolution it is among a range of options being investigated.
He said the advice of Rothschild was sought last year because he was constantly being approached by potential investors in the fast-growing company.
“I probably have someone calling me once a week asking if they can invest in Travel Republic,” Pirie said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders having a third party dealing with those sorts of issues.
“We have been working with Rothschild for almost a year and I expect to be working with them for several years to come, it’s an ongoing relationship.
“Whether it comes to something short term is anyone’s guess. Additional investment would help accelerate breaking into overseas markets, but it is not necessary for our current plans.
“The European roll out is being financed from cash reserves and profits, there is no actual need for additional investment.
“But if someone wants a part of that on terms we are happy with, instead of going into five countries we could go into 20.”
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Travel Republic has already expanded into the Republic of Ireland and Spain and will open an office in Italy before the end of the year followed closely by Germany.
Pirie said the agency was looking for organic growth in these new markets, but any new investment could be spent on acquisitions if the right deal came along.
This would be a first for the Kingston-Upon-Thames based OTA which will handle over £400 million worth of transactions this year, and claims to be experiencing 40% growth in the UK.
“We do sometimes look at acquisitions. An obvious target would be a sizeable online travel agent with at least £200 million of total transactions value that would fast track us into a new market.”
Pirie believes the scope for growth in the European online travel space is considerable describing the market as ‘young’ and ripe for consolidation.
“I’ve heard people describe the market at mature but that’s bollocks, it’s still a young market at the moment with several different brands in several different sectors.
“I think in five years time there is going to probably be three to four brands across Europe and the rest will be consolidated into that.”
The recent pronouncement by Co-op boss Peter Marks that the retail market in the UK is the worst he has known in 40 years is actually taken as positive sign by Travel Republic.
Pirie said in tough economic conditions customers look for value and this is exactly where Travel Republic is positioned.
“We are seeing escalating growth in the UK. We actually think we have only just scratched the surface of what we can do in the UK.
“The market this year is probably flat, even online, but I see that as a freak metric.
“In general, tailor-made holidays online is a high growth market. I’m sure it will come out of the recession quicker than other sectors and get back to double digit growth year on year.”
Pirie said investors with substaial funds are in the market for good prospects and are particularly interested in companies exploiting online distribution and with a strong track record of growth in good times and bad.
With around two million customers annually Pirie said the strength of Travel Republic’s in-house IT systems is a key differentiator and something that is not easy to replicate.