Cox & Kings eyes India IPO

The world’s oldest travel company,
Cox & Kings, is eyeing a listing on the Bombay Stock Exchange that could net its chairman an estimated £24 million.

The UK-based company is looking for an initial public offering in India to tap the country’s burgeoning middle class.
The luxury holiday firm has had a presence in India since 1758, when it was founded by Richard Cox as a bank for army officers serving in the country.

Chairman Anthony Good said the company will issue shares equivalent to about a quarter of the business, and expects to raise about £61 million, giving it a market valuation of about £240 million.

The bulk of the IPO proceeds would be used to expand the company through acquisitions, with the remainder used to pay off its £11 million of debts.

Mr Good told The Times: “India is so far ahead that the Indian company has ended up as the parent. It’s a reflection of the growth in the affluent middle classes.”

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Cox & Kings took 287,000 Indians on foreign holidays last year, compared to 4,000 eight years ago. However it took 16,500 Britons on holiday compared to 15,000 eight years ago.

In 2010 the group expects to have nearly doubled its Indian customers to half a million. Cox & Kings has 79 outlets in India and Mr Good said that it was “not unrealistic” to expect that to increase to about 200 in the two or three years after flotation.

Cox & Kings runs holidays to India, Latin America, the Far East, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In addition to package tours, it will put together individual “tailor-made” excursions for its customers.
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