Skift Take

Big names drove many of the top 10 travel mergers of the year. But among the largest deals, aircraft lessors, rail manufacturers and an online travel agency used the pandemic to scoop up infrastructure and technology to shore up their positions.

Pandemic opportunities fueled much of the mergers-and-acquisitions activity in travel this year, as buyers pounced on favorable valuations and sectors set for strong recoveries.

Among the top 10 deals were three that involved infrastructure or services for planes and trains, and the dealmakers were companies that your average traveler never heard of.

The biggest such deal saw Dublin-based AerCap, already the largest aircraft lessor in the world, acquiring a U.S.-based rival, GE Capital Aviation Services, for $30.7 billion in November. That deal, which saw GE grabbing $23 million in cash and a 46 percent stake in the merged companies in a bet on an aviation recovery, was roughly five times larger than the number two acquisition of the year.

In that second-biggest acquisition, France-headquartered Alstom bought UK-based Bombardier Transportation, a rail car manufacturer, in a $6.2 billion (euro 5.5 billion) deal that closed in January 2021.

lnterestingly, both sellers General Electric in the AerCap deal, and Bombardier, then-parent of Bombardier Transportation, in the transaction with Alstom, viewed the transactions as enabling them to return to their core businesses, an energy equipment and services provider for GE, and business jets for Bombardier.

The third infrastructure-services deal was the 10th biggest travel-related acquisition with Siemens Mobility acquiring rail software maker Squills for $650 million.

See the chart below to view the top 10 deals.

Hotels and real estate were in play as Blackstone and Starwood Capital executed the third largest travel-related acquisition of the year and took control of Extended Stay America for $6 billion. One might characterize Extended Stay America as a merger and acquisition football — When the deal closed in June, it was the third time Blackstone has been owner of Extended Stay America.

In another major hotel deal, the fifth largest travel acquisition of the year, Hyatt bought Apple Leisure Group for $2.7 billion in November, extending Chicago-based Hyatt’s reach further into Europe and the all-inclusive sector.

The fourth largest deal of the year had Certares, Knighthead and Apollo winning an auction to lead U.S.-based Hertz out of bankruptcy in a roughly $4.7 billion deal.

The sixth-largest travel acquistion announced or closed in 2021 was the only Asia entry with Tata Group intending to take Air India private for $2.4 billion.

It wasn’t a particularly active mergers and acquisitions year for online travel agencies, but one, Booking Holdings, announced late in the year two billion-dollar-plus acquisitions, Swedish flight-tech provider Etraveli Group for $1.8 billion (seventh-largest deal) and hotel wholesaler and distributor Getaroom for $1.2 billion (eighth largest).

Expedia Group was a seller. The online travel agency sold its once-rising star Egencia, the corporate travel agency, to American Express Global Business Travel for a 14 percent stake in the world’s largest travel management company, worth about $750 million, and a long-term hotel distribution deal. That was the ninth-largest travel acquisition of the year.

We didn’t consider special-purpose acquisition company deals in our top 10 because they are transactions executed by shell companies with no operations. If we had included them, then Altimeter Capital Growth 1’s merger with Singapore’s Grab, the ride sharing and food delivery superapp, would have been in the mix in a $4 billion transaction.

Travel’s 10 Biggest Merger and Acquisition Deals of 2021

BuyerAcquired CompanySectorStatusPriceOrigin Countries
1. AerCapGE Capital Aviation ServicesAviationClosed$30.7 BIreland, U.S.
2. AlstomBombardier TransporationRailClosed$6.2 BFrance, UK
3. Blackstone/Starwood CapitalExtended Stay AmericaHotelClosed$6 BU.S.
4. Certares/Knighhead/ApolloHertzCar RentalClosed$4.7 BU.S.
5. HyattApple Leisure GroupHotelClosed$2.7 BU.S.
6. Tata GroupAir IndiaAviationPending$2.4 BIndia
7. Booking HoldingsEtraveli GroupOnline TravelPending$1.8 BU.S./Sweden
8. Booking HoldingsGetaroomOnline TravelPending$1.2 BU.S.
9. Amex GBTEgenciaCorporate TravelClosed$650 MU.S.
10. Siemens MobilitySquillsRailPending$650 MGermany/Netherlands

Source: Skift, financial filings

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Tags: Blackstone Group, booking holdings, corporate travel, expedia, extended stay america, grab, hotels, hyatt, online travel agencies

Photo credit: Pictured is an AerCap a320neo. The aircraft lessor participated in the largest travel acquisition of 2021.

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