Unister

Czechs snap up insolvent OTA

Germany’s largest online travel retailer has been taken over by a fast-growing Central European e-commerce group.

December 29, 2016
Lucas Flöther has successfully sold off Unister Travel.
Photo: Sven Döring / Agentur Focus

Unister Travel, which operates Ab-in-den-Urlaub-de, Fluege.de and several smaller travel portals, will be taken over by Czech investment company Rockaway Capital as of January 31, 2017, for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition of Germany’s largest online travel retailer, announced on December 23, comes half a year after the death of founder Thomas Wagner and its subsequent insolvency.

Rockaway will be taking over all the relevant assets from Unister’s flight, package and tour operator business, and specifically the portals ab-in-den-urlaub.de, fluege.de, urlaubstours.de, reisen.de, billigfluege.de, reisegeier.de, hotelreservierung.de and TravelViva including all trademark rights and the IT infrastructure. All the remaining approximately 520 jobs in the travel business as well as the sites are retained. Unister’s creditors have already agreed to the sale.

The group’s insolvency administrator Lucas Flöther said: “I am very pleased that we were able to find a solid partner for the Unister travel business after only approximately five months after filing for bankruptcy. I am particularly glad that all the employees in the travel business kept their jobs and that the investor has agreed to retain the locations.”

Commenting on the choice of investor, he added: “Rockaway convinced the creditors with an ambitious, yet realistic concept for the future. The acquiring company is an experienced and long-term orientated investor that is willing to make the necessary investment available to lead the Unister travel business back to the growth path. The fact that the investor will take over all the employees in the travel business and hold on to the Leipzig site was also decisive when choosing Rockaway.”

The parties agreed not to disclose the sale price. However, Flöther did indicate that the price paid reflected the market value of the business operations. The Unister travel business creditors “can now count on good odds,” according to the insolvency administrator.

“The successful sale would not have been possible if the Unister employees had not stayed loyal to their company from the outset,” Flöther emphasised. “However, it was also decisive that the customers remained with us all the way, and that a stable turnover could be achieved during the insolvency proceedings.”

However, Unister Travel will come under Czech ownership with a new management team. Managing director Matthias Steinberg will leave the group on March 31, 2017. In future, the company will be headed by Balint Gyemant as CEO of flight sales (fluege.de) and Stephan Wiese as CEO of the package holiday business (ab-in-den-urlaub.de).

Meanwhile, Rockaway said the acquisition of Unister Travel would enable it to combine the German business with Invia, the largest online travel agency in Central Europe, to create a pan-European leader in the online travel segment. In 2015, Invia had turnover of €250 million and some 500,000 customers.

Rockaway has invested about $400 million to build up a portfolio of some 20 e-commerce and internet companies, including the acquisition in February 2016 of Invia for €76 million. The Unister deal was jointly financed by its Chinese investment partner CEFC.

“As Invia and the former Unister companies, especially AIDU, have the same business model, our

focus will be on leveraging combined forces and expertise with the vision to create a pan-European OTA leader. Our proven technology and superior know-how will allow us to provide the best service to up to 140 million existing and potential customers in Germany and beyond”, said Jaroslaw Czernek, Investment Partner at Rockaway Capital and Chairman at Invia.

“The investment in the German online travel agency ab-in-den-urlaub.de and the online airline-ticket seller fluege.de is a great opportunity and fits with our travel-industry development strategy. Through these companies, we also want to use the potential presented by growth in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Europe. We also plan to use the synergies and opportunities that our investment will provide in the areas of the travel industry, air transport and the hotel industry,” emphasised Marcela Hrdá, executive vice-president of CEFC Europe.

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