UK Online Travel Agent Continues European Expansion

London-based online travel agent (Nasdaq: EBKR) has acquired Norwegian discount travel agency Geotours AS in a deal valued at approximately $1 million (US$).

Ebookers, which raised $61 million in an IPO in November, says that it plans to become Europe’s largest online travel agency, and will spend some $40 million on marketing and technology improvements over the next year.

The company said it will acquire Geotours in cash, with some stock attached. Geotours is the fifth acquisition of a European travel company for since it went public in November.

Acquisition Strategy

Ebookers also announced the purchase of two German travel companies last month. The company said it has spent less than $7 million for the five companies, which it said was in keeping with its acquisition strategy.

The company intends to expand its acquisition strategy to Italy, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands. Ebookers currently operates Internet sites in the UK, France, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Norway, and has operations in Switzerland and Ireland.

Focus On Scandinavia

Ebookers has been focusing on Scandinavia recently. Oslo-based Geotours rang up sales of $7.5 million this year.

While only 10 percent of its revenues are generated online, ebookers said it expects that a majority of its sales will be generated via the Internet within 12-15 months.

Early last month, the company announced that it was purchasing travel companies STT Airways of Sweden and Lloyd Tours of Finland. STT Airways had sales of $26.2 million last year.

The company said Scandinavia’s high Internet penetration — 30.8 percent for Finland, 30.5 percent for Norway and 29.3 percent for Sweden — makes it particularly attractive. By comparison, the UK rate stands at 13.1 percent, while the United States is at 28.3 percent, according to the Computer Industry Almanac.

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