On 16 May 2018, over 70 people from the travel industry arrived at RSM HQ for the first ever ABTA M&A Conference. The event provided us and the other delegates with the opportunity to hear from a range of speakers on different topics focussed on mergers and acquisitions in the travel and tourism sector.
Although we’re not employed by a travel business we do act for a number of travel clients and we’re active members of the sector group. We enjoyed meeting others from the sector and gained insights into the current travel and tourism industry. The speakers highlighted the appetite and attraction for M&A activity in the current economic climate.
As attendees we had the opportunity to absorb valuable information about what to think about if you are acquiring or selling a travel business, and we also had the opportunity to ask questions of the businesses attending and the speakers themselves. We were able to quiz speakers from travel businesses who have been through a merger or acquisition transaction as well as asking questions of a private equity firm, which gave us an understanding of both sides of the transaction process.
The agenda covered many areas including an overview of industry trends, the current M&A climate, the various considerations a business needs to consider when looking at a merger or acquisition, and insights from those who have completed a transaction.
The key takeaways for us were:
- The M&A market is active and buoyant. Rob Donaldson, Head of Corporate Finance, RSM, provided an overview of current M&A transactions in the travel sector.
- Ensure your house is in order before considering a transaction. Kirsty Sandwell, Partner, RSM M&A highlighted the importance of getting your business ready for sale and what that really means.
- Don’t underestimate the length of the process and the level of involvement you will have. Stephen Mason, Partner, RSM DD, highlighted what to expect during the due diligence process and the importance of making the right choice when it comes to your advisor.
- Always consult ATOL and ABTA when buying or selling a business. John De Vial, Director of Financial Protection and Financial Services, ABTA highlighted that you will need approval from ATOL and ABTA prior to completing a transaction.
- Talk to someone who’s got PE backing. Richard Downs, CEO, Iglu.com and Richard Bowden-Doyle, Chairman, Neilson shared their experience of running a business which has received private equity investment and how the investment has enabled their businesses to grow.
- It’s not just about the money. Lawrence Dean, Investment Director, LDC and Charlie Jolly, Head of PE, RSM, gave a practical insight into what a private equity firm expects when investing in a travel business and the expertise they bring to the business. Private equity investment brings funds but it also brings a wealth of support in the shape of expertise and a mentor for the business at board level.
- There are both legal and foreign exchange considerations too. David Wilkinson, Partner, Fieldfisher, walked us through the legal aspect to a deal and Peter Lilly, Business Development Manager, Corporate Foreign Exchange, AFEX highlighted the importance of mitigating FOREX risk when undertaking cross-border transactions.
The day proved to be a great success delivering insights and providing the attendees with food for thought when considering a merger or acquisition. As members of the RSM Travel and tourism sector group we believe this is an exciting time for the industry and look forward to meeting many more travel businesses over the next few months.