Kiwi.com shareholders test market for possible sale

Kiwi.com shareholders test market for possible sale

PRAGUE: Shareholders in Kiwi.com are considering selling up to a majority stake in the Czech online travel agency, with a deal possible within months, one of the main owners said on Thursday.

The company's owners, private Czech investors and a venture firm founded in 2012, have been weighing a potential sale to trade or financial buyers valuing the firm at hundreds of millions of euros.

Kiwi.com differs from competitors by offering what it calls "virtual interlining", or selling flight itineraries combining normally non-cooperating airlines. It also provides guarantees covering missed connections.

"We are opening the question of a sale and we are testing the market whether it would be willing to pay enough to satisfy us," Jiri Hlavenka, who holds a 20 percent stake, told Reuters.

"It can be up to a majority (stake sold), but not necessarily," he said.

Dozens of bidders have showed interest, mainly from the United States and Europe, but there are also some from east Asia, he said, adding a deal may come in weeks or months.

He declined to comment on what would be an acceptable price.

Hospodarske Noviny, a daily business paper, reported on Thursday the sale could fetch 10-15 billion crowns (US$460-US$690 million).

That would be in line with previous comments from Kiwi's founder and 24.5 percent owner, Oliver Dlouhy, who told Reuters in May the shareholders were ready for an exit if conditions were right. He said at the time the company was valued at around 400 million euros (US$471 million).

Earlier this week, Dlouhy told Reuters via email that Kiwi.com revenues would reach 100 million euros this year and he saw earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) at 9 million. Both figures should approximately double next year, he said.

Hospodarske Noviny said potential investors could include Priceline, which runs the kayak.com travel search engine and which as visited Kiwi.com headquarters in the Czech city of Brno.

Officials at Kiwi.com did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

(US$1 = 21.7280 Czech crowns)

(US$1 = 0.8490 euros)

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter)

Source: Reuters

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