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CWT and Navigant

Today another chapter was written in the restructuring of the travel industry with the dual announcements from CWT concerning the acquisition of TQ3 Navigant and the buyout of the Accor share of CWT by One Equity Partners. Was this really unexpected? Accor clearly signaled that they wanted to sell their half of CWT last month. Most pundits believed it would be very difficult for Navigant to re-create the TQ3 international presence. So clearly this should not be a surprise to anyone. The press has for years characterized CWT as a #2 to Amex’s #1 position. To maintain this, (and perhaps go after Amex) CWT needed to continue to grow and acquisition was the most logical path. The next shoe to drop will concern Cendant and who ends up with Travelport. The interesting part of many of the deals of recent years is the role private equity has played with major acquisitions (e.g Worldspan, Amadeus, CWT and most likely Cendant). Private equity is looking for immediate returns and all four of these companies are profitable with solid ongoing income. Private equity is also funding the GNEs (e.g. ITA Software, G2, Farelogix). So who’s right, the funding on traditional players or the embracing of new distribution platforms? Time will be the final judge. I would venture to speculate that ten years from now there will five players in the distribution game (3 GDS and 2 GNEs) and they will look very much alike. On the TMC front today’s announcements means more pressure on 2nd tier TMCs and their associated consortium (e.g. Radius) or partnerships (GET) forcing them to prove that their model works and is able to compete against the new mega – mega TMCs.