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American Express Global Business Travel has found a way to grow business with small and medium-sized companies, after acquiring independent agency Ovation Travel Group for an undisclosed amount.

Ovation Travel is headquartered in the U.S. and has offices in the UK, including Chartwell Travel, which specializes in the media and entertainment sector. It also owns the Lawyers Travel brand.

The agency last reported $1.7 billion in annual sales, according to Amex GBT, and has 700 employees plus 200 independent travel advisors. However, in August last year, Paul Metselaar, Ovation Travel chairman and CEO, said 500 employees had been furloughed.

The acquisition, announced on Thursday, follows rival Corporate Travel Management’s buying spree last year, which saw it acquire Travel and Transport for $195 million.

Despite private equity firm Carlyle Group and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC pulling out of a deal to invest in Amex GBT in May last year, industry observers believe the agency has deep pockets. More deals are likely as more agencies go up for sale after months of little revenue.

In October last year, it acquired technology startup 30SecondsToFly, and in 2019 it  formed a joint venture with Kanoo Travel.

Ovation Travel will become a division of Amex GBT’s Global Customer Partnerships organization, and its brands will remain in place.

“Despite the pandemic, GBT continues to execute on its strategy to grow organically and through acquisitions in the U.S. small and medium enterprise segment,” said Eric Bock, Amex GBT’s global head of mergers and acquisitions. “This acquisition adds a very high-quality asset and business that will enhance the service and capabilities we offer customers.”

Photo Credit: Ovation Travel is headquartered in the U.S. Nick Harris / Flickr