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Cendant to Acquire ebookers

Cendant Corporation
has today announced the acquisition of ebookers. According to the FT, Cendant made an agreed all-cash bid for ebookers, worth $404m.ebookers has built a strong position in the on-line travel market with its specialism in medium and long haul travel to destinations such as Asia, Australasia, Southern Africa, the Middle East/Indian Ocean and the Americas, backed up where needed by highly skilled travel consultants who understand the complexities this sort of travel presents versus a short city break. It attracts over 3.5 million unique visitors to its website each month.   

ebookers will form part of Cendant’s Travel Distribution Services (TDS) division,  reporting into its International Markets group headed by Gordon Wilson based in Langley in the UK. It will however be run as a separate entity within the division with its own CEO who will be announced in due course.  Dinesh Dhamija, CEO and founder of ebookers will be leaving the business after the acquisition is completed but will remain available to Cendant in a consulting capacity for several months following completion.

The acquisition is the next step in Cendant’s strategy of expanding its travel businesses in Europe.  Last year, Cendant acquired Travel 2/Travel 4 one of the UK leading travel wholesalers which supplies air, hotel, car rental and other destination services through the UK retail travel trade for long-haul destinations. 
Earlier this year, Cendant acquired Flairview Travel based in Sydney, Australia which operates the and on-line brands across 14 countries, offering over 13,000 hotels throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia.  Last month, Cendant acquired Orbitz in the United States which, taken with its existing CheapTickets business, places it in the top two on-line travel retailers in that market. 
Gordon Wilson, Managing Director of International Markets for Cendant’s Travel Distribution Services division commented: “We want to ensure that Cendant participates in some form through whichever channel the ultimate consumer decides to purchase his or her travel - on-line direct, off-line direct and through travel agency intermediaries, backed by the same enabling technology.  ebookers will offer a broader direct channel for Cendant in the European on-line travel arena which is growing significantly, especially on the continent. We will obtain an excellent brand and a multi-national sales, service and content acquisition capability, as well as a dynamic new management team in ebookers who I am looking forward to working with in building on their excellent achievements to date.” 
Wilson added, “This deal is the logical next step in the continuing execution of Cendant TDS’ ‘order maker’ strategy, enhancing our ability to operate as a true retailer of travel, with the relevance to drive demand. The addition of ebookers to our growing portfolio, including Travel 2/Travel 4, Orbitz and Cheaptickets, as well as our hotel booking companies and the travel content available via other Cendant subsidiaries, we are successfully broadening our scale and relevance within the travel supply community, enabling us to secure a richer inventory for our agency partners. Our goal is to ensure that both for travel product suppliers and for our travel agency partners we offer value which is greater than purely processing transactions. It is for this reason, for example, that HotelClub inventory is now available not only to the consumer but also to travel agencies using Galileo.  We envisage similar content and technology benefits benefiting the trade as a result of ebookers, whilst suppliers are presented with a genuine choice over how they want their products to be offered for sale in each of the direct and indirect channels in which Cendant operates.” 
Dinesh Dhamija, Chairman and CEO of ebookers said: “ebookers has become a leader in European online travel and today’s transaction represents a logical next step in the Company’s development. Within the Cendant group, ebookers will be well placed to take the business to the next level, building on our existing strengths in Europe, and excellence in value-add services such as long haul and hotels. This is good news for our customers, our shareholders and our employees.”   
Dinesh Dhamija will resign his position with ebookers after the acquisition is completed but will remain available to Cendant in a consulting capacity. The deal is expected to close, subject to customary relevant regulatory approvals,  approvals by ebookers Shareholders and the sanction of the Scheme by the Court,  sometime in the first quarter of 2005.