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Karavel-Promovacances, France’s leading online travel agency, announces completion of its sale to LBO France

01 Jun 2011

Barclays Private Equity (‘BPE’) has sold Karavel-Promovacances (‘the Company’ or ‘the Group’), France’s leading online travel agency, to LBO France for an undisclosed sum. LBO France will become a majority shareholder and the Company’s management and employees will increase their share capital. LBO France’s investment will help the Group to reinforce its position as France’s leading online travel agency and accelerate its international development.  

Karavel-Promovacances’ development started in 2000 on the Harvard and MIT university campuses in Boston (USA), by the three French founders, Alain de Mendonça, Folco Aloisi and Marc Lacouture, who still run the company. It was formally launched in May 2001, and has grown from 7 to 700 employees in the space of 10 years, operating in Paris, Vichy and Nice. To date, the Company has sold holiday packages to more than 3 million customers.

With more than 600,000 customers in 2010, the Group has become one of France’s leading online travel agencies.  Since it was established, Karavel-Promovacances has developed products in line with a strict quality standard; a competitive pricing policy with reductions of up to 40%; a detailed knowledge of the tourism sector and call-centre management and an ambitious growth strategy. This has been based on an original and profitable business model both as an online distributor and tour operator.

The Group is one of the few operators in online tourism to have developed a multi-channel strategy by opening some 20 travel agencies to complement its online business. The Company fosters a culture of enterprise and innovation.  Since BPE invested in Karavel-Promovacences in 2007, employees of the Company have had the option to become shareholders.

Under the management of BPE between 2007 and 2011, the Group has accelerated its development through acquisitive growth.  Today the Company has a dozen brands in its portfolio including ABCroisière (France’s leading online travel agency for cruise holidays), Partir Pas Cher (a specialist in inexpensive holidays), Un Monde à deux (a online agency that specialises in top-of-the-range holidays) and, most recently, ‘ClubPrivéVacances’ a site offering exclusive holiday deals reserved for its members.

The Company’s flagship website is one of the top 15 most visited e-commerce sites in France with an average of 4.5 million unique visitors per month (source Médiamétrie / Netratings September 2010).

Barclays Private Equity is selling Karavel-Promovacances after three and a half years of ownership: ″Karavel-Promovacances has experienced impressive growth over recent years, in a difficult economic climate.  We are happy that we have been able to help the group to become a leader in its market by supporting its proactive strategy of acquisitive growth (ABCroisiere, Partir Pas Cher and Un Monde à Deux) and by participating in the financing of acquisitions. As well as the excellent quality of the Karavel-Promovacances management team, the key success factors have been the strength of the Group’s business model, combined with a constructive partnership between the directors and the financial investors″, says Guillaume Jacqueau, CEO of Barclays Private Equity France.

LBO France, a leading investment firm in France, will now continue to support the Company’s growth through further acquisitions both in France and overseas.

Alain de Mendonça, founder and CEO of Karavel-Promovacances states: ″This is the beginning of a new stage for the Group.  The market has entered a mature phase where only players who invest and manage to differentiate themselves will continue to grow organically and through acquisition.  The expertise and financial strength of LBO France means that we can continue to develop and to consolidate our position as leader in online travel.″

Bruno Crémel, Director of LBO France, adds: ″ We are impressed by the path taken by Karavel since its creation 10 years ago and we have great respect for the work done by its management and its employees.  We believe that Karavel has great potential and we look forward to supporting the Company and its management team in the years to come. ″  

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