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It’s a headline writer’s dilemma: Two companies announce they’ve agreed to merge, leading many to believe it’s a done deal, except for the final signatures.
But as we’ve seen in the last few months, the impact coronavirus on the economy, earnings, and employment has turned businesses upside down, turning the deals and headlines to dust.
Several travel companies have been haggling for better deal terms or pulled the plug on agreed-upon acquisitions and investments. They argue that the coronavirus pandemic has undermined the rationales for the deals. So the crisis has thrown billions of dollars worth of transactions into upheaval.
Skift has rounded up some of the major travel deals that never closed.
Yatra, a travel agency with a big corporate travel business in India, announced in July it would sell itself to Ebix, a U.S. technology firm. The deal had valued Yatra at $337.8 million. But Ebix later haggled over terms and that prompted Yatra to back out this month.
Wex-Travelport’s eNett and Optal
There could be tons of acrimony tied to Wex’s effort to walk away from a $1.7 billion deal to buy two payment technology vendors, eNett and Optal, from Travelport. Travelport had a deal in January to sell the units to payments company Wex. But Wex refused to close on the deal in May after the pandemic devastated the travel sector that eNett and Optal serve.
Travelport is suing Wex to get it to pay. It’s arguing that the contract named a pandemic as a problem that Wex couldn’t use as an escape clause. Wex is countering that eNett is suffering much more than other peer payments technology companies, and that allegedly should count as a “material adverse effect” that should gut the deal.
Elliott Management, a private equity owner of Travelport renowned for its aggressive tactics, could help make the battle fierce.
Another travel technology company, Sabre, also ran into pandemic-related headwinds with a planned merger. The UK Competition and Markets Authority blocked Sabre’s proposed $360 million acquisition of tech vendor Farelogix on the grounds that the deal would stifle innovation and competition. If the pandemic hadn’t crushed Sabre’s revenue and hurt Farelogix’s airline business, then Sabre might have continued to pursue the deal.
But in April, Sabre abandoned its planned acquisition of Farelogix.
South Korean asset manager Mirae got cold feet in April and walked away from a $5.8 billion hotel deal with Anbang, a Chinese insurance and financial conglomerate. Mirae had agreed in September to buy 15 hotels, such as the JW Marriott Essex House that overlooks New York City’s Central Park, but the pandemic’s hit to travel made the properties appear less attractive.
But other factors may also have played a role. A suit over the transaction has raised questions about Anbang’s legal rights to the properties, the Financial Times has reported.
Carlyle Group and GIC-American Express Global Business Travel
Private equity firm Carlyle Group and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC pulled out of a deal to invest some $900 million in American Express Global Business Travel for a 20 percent stake.
The investment in the corporate travel management company would have valued American Express GBT at around $5 billion. for $900 million and placed a value on the company of $5 billion.
Carlyle Group argued in a Delaware court that American Express GBT’s coronavirus-induced revenue plunge was a materially adverse condition, enough to gut the deal.
Uber, which operates food delivery service Uber Eats, had been close to a deal to acquire Grubhub as the sector, unlike many, has been on the upswing during global lockdowns. So you can argue that coronavirus impacted the potential deal — by boosting Grubhub’s value.
The all-stock deal would have pegged Grubhub’s value at $4.5 billion.
But with the prospect of intense regulatory scrutiny in the United States looming, Netherlands-based Just Eat Takeaway swooped in with a buyout offer that values Grubhub at $7.3 billion. Grubhub and Just Eat Takeaway came to terms Thursday.
In mid-April, Polish national airline LOT, walked away from a $327 million deal to acquire German competitor Condor, which formerly was owned by Thomas Cook. The two parties had agreed to the deal in January, and it could have created a pan-European aviation enterprise.
With both airlines severely impacted by the pandemic, LOT insisted on certain German government guarantees that were not forthcoming.
Other Deals Questionable or Renegotiated
While coronavirus has served to cancel many deals, it has likewise called others into question, and forced the renegotiation of others.
- Air Canada-Transat: Air Canada claims it is not backing out of a deal, subject to regulatory approval, to buy tour operator Transat, but the latter’s stock prices has plummeted about two-thirds since the deal was announced in the summer.
- As of May, IAG,which owns British Airways and Iberia, remained committed as of last month to acquiring Spain’s Air Europa. IAG would pay some $1.12 billion (euro 1 billion) for the marriage.
- Despegar offered in January to buy the Mexican travel agency Best Day for $136 million. But after the pandemic hit, the Argentine-based travel agency haggled on the price. Despegar said in June it will pay about $56.5 million for Best Day, without an upfront cash outlay. It will also pay up to $20 million over time, depending on some conditions.