Digital

OAG Gets Sold Again as it Pushes its Flight Schedule and Forecasting Service

Skift Take

OAG was taken over by private equity in 2013, which retrofitted it with a focus on airline data services. But this once legendary brand will face tough competition from FlightGlobal and other players.

— Sean O'Neill

OAG Aviation Worldwide, a provider of flight status and schedule information, has a new owner.

British portfolio company Axio Group sold the Luton, United-Kingdom-based OAG to British venture firm Vitruvian Partners for $215 million (or 172 million pounds).

A little history is needed to understand the value of the deal and its relative success.

In 2013, Axio bought OAG as part of a bundle of seven businesses that United Business Media (UBM), a London-based B2B media company, was offloading.

At the time, Skift and other media outlets reported what UBM had said in a statement (since retracted) that the sale value was 160 million pounds ($252 million), including a vendor loan of 40 million pounds.

The deal value was reduced when the transaction closed to 148 million pounds, plus an undisclosed vendor loan.

The largest investor in the deal was British buyout firm Electra Private Equity, which invested 91 million pounds in debt and equity.

From the perspective of Electra (funds of which are managed by Epiris), the OAG deal was profitable. CORRECTION Feb 17 at 7amET. (My original version was inaccurate. I wrote: “Electra (since renamed Epiris”. Sorry.)

It says today it has received cash proceeds of 104 million pounds, via Axio. Electra was not the only investor in the deal. Notably, UBM put up a vendor loan, but there are also other shareholders in Axio.

OAG, once known as Official Airline Guide, had been a vital source of information for aviation for decades. But in recent years, the company has tried to find its footing by re-focusing its activities on subscription data services.

Since the acquisition, Axio changed the company’s strategy and operations, dropping an events business to work on new projects and build what OAG calls “the world’s most comprehensive flight status database.” CORRECTION Feb 17, 9amET. I originally wrote OAG was debuting a “real-time flight schedule” product this year. I was wrong. It’s been out since 2010. Sorry.

“OAG has grown earnings at more than 30 percent a year since 2013,” the companies said. It offers flight information not just to airlines but also to airports, OTAs, and tourism bureaus.

In 2015, Axio also helped OAG grow its data services business when it acquired Flightview, a U.S. company that tracks flight status.

Companies have passed OAG around over the decades, and its value always seems to shrink with each transaction. Dun & Bradstreet sold it in 1989 for $750 million to Propwix, and it has been downhill since.

OAG faces competition from a few players but most prominently by Reed Business Information’s FlightGlobal, an aviation services brand, which in August bought one of its flight-tracking rivals, FlightStats, and a seller of aviation intelligence software, Diio.

Tags: aviation, oag

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