08 August 2015 06:16:49 IST

Thomas Cook acquires Kuoni’s travel biz in India, Hong Kong for ₹535 cr

Prem Watsa

Deal does not include visa service arm, VFS Global; co to absorb 1,800 employees

Billionaire investor Prem Watsa-backed Thomas Cook (India) Ltd has acquired Kuoni Group’s travel businesses in India and Hong Kong for ₹535 crore.

The deal includes outbound travel brand SOTC and destination management brand SITA. It does not include VFS Global, which is Kuoni’s outsourcing and technology services subsidiary for governments and diplomatic missions.

As part of the acquisition, Thomas Cook will take in about 1,800 employees of Zurich-headquartered Kuoni’s business unit in India and Hong Kong tour operations. Kuoni’s business activities will be run as an independent company. The transaction remains subject to regulatory approvals.

Deal a “strategic intent”

Prem Watsa, Chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings, said: “Our acquisition of Kuoni’s tour operating and retailing businesses in India and Hong Kong, as well as the Indian inbound business, reaffirms our belief in the Indian market potential, as also our strategic intent to explore viable geographies, including the larger Asia opportunity.”

In 2012, Watsa had acquired a 77 per cent stake in Thomas Cook for ₹817 crore through Fairbridge Capital, an affiliate of Fairfax Financial Holdings.

Kuoni had entered India in 1996 by acquiring SOTC Tours, and in 2000, bought SITA World Travels. But, this year, the Swiss company made clear that it will exit its travel business across the world in a bid to focus on VFS Global.

Rajeev Wagle, Managing Director of Kuoni India, said, “A partnership like this has the potential to create a far more capable, more innovative, more efficient and, most importantly, an organisation that can add more value to travellers.”

Third buy

This is the third acquisition by Thomas Cook in the last two years. In 2013, it had acquired Bengaluru-based HR and IT services company Quess Corp (formerly IKYA Human Capital Solutions).

In 2014, it bought leisure hospitality company Sterling Holiday Resorts (India) for ₹870 crore.

Thomas Cook’s footprint currently extends to over 232 locations, including 23 airport counters, in 95 cities across India, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.