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American Express Co.’s third quarter report yesterday was a watershed event as it marked the first time that its global business travel operation, the largest in the world, was no longer on the books.
In 2013, American Express’ then-wholly owned American Express Global Business Travel unit did $18.8 billion in business travel gross sales, but that’s all been “deconsolidated,” or wiped out, as of the third quarter ending September 30 in terms of American Express’ financials.
That’s because at the close of the second quarter, on June 30, 2014, American Express entered into a 50-50 global business travel joint venture with private equity firm Certares, forming the restructured American Express Global Business Travel.
The new entity enables American Express Global Business Travel to focus on travel without the distractions and shifting priorities of the credit card business, and it rids American Express Co. of what has been a drag on earnings. The hope is that Certares’ $900 million injection of capital into the business will spur growth in the business travel joint venture.
If American Express Co. no longer has business travel on its official books, it still operates a consumer travel business — albeit a downsized one. The American Express Travel website is the core of the company’s consumer travel business as American Express shuttered its brick and mortar leisure travel agencies in 2013, and Apple Leisure Group acquired Travel Impressions, American Express’ wholesale tour operator.
For the third quarter of 2014, American Express’ U.S. consumer travel sales increased 6.2% to $956 million compared with the same period last year, and Amex’s smaller international consumer travel business came in with essentially flat sales of $362 million in the third quarter.
Beyond the financial news, Jeffrey Campbell, the American Express CFO, commented on “macro events” i.e. the Ebola outbreak, and its uncertainties.
“it is just too early to say what will happen to either billings or travel-related bookings given all the media news of the last few days.” Campbell said.