The Switzerland-based tour operator has taken a 31.8% stake in ET-China from Gandhara Master Fund, a Hong Kong and London based hedge fund, for £5.3m.
Kuoni said the purchase of the stake, which makes it the largest single shareholder in ET-China, marks a major step in its strategy to expand its activities in the fast-growing Chinese market.
Kuoni CEO Peter Rothwell described the expansion of the
company’s activities in China as “one of the biggest milestones to
date in the more than 100 years of Kuoni’s company history.”
ET-China’s president and chief executive, Matthew Ng said: “I am delighted that Kuoni has acquired a stake in the company and believe this gives us an opportunity to create a strategic alliance with an established global tour operator.”
Kuoni will take a seat on the ET-China board. Ordinarily, a shareholder that increases its stake above 30% would be obliged to make a full offer for the company but the ET-China directors have agreed to waive this obligation.
Founded in Guangzhou in 2000, Et-china owns a majority stake in Guangzhou International Travel Services (GZL), which specialises in group inclusive-tour arrangements both within China and to destinations abroad.
The company has a customer base of about 1.5 million, and has been listed on London’s AIM stock exchange since August 2007. Et-china generated total turnover for 2007 of about CHF 200 million, and currently has around 1,400 employees.