Wotif declares bid for travel.com.au unconditional
Jan 03 2008 - Sydney Morning Herald Business
WOTIF'S takeover bid for the airline and accommodation booking site travel.com.au is on the home straight, after the company yesterday declared its $57 million bid unconditional.
Three months after trumping a rival offer by Webjet, Wotif announced its offer free of all conditions after securing 83.3 per cent of travel.com.au.
"We're quietly confident we will get to the 90 per cent threshold," said Wotif's chief executive, Robbie Cooke, who along with his deputy, Craig Dawson, joined the travel.com.au board yesterday.
As a sweetener to remaining travel.com.au shareholders, Wotif has offered to raise its offer from 55c a share to 57c once it secures 90 per cent of the company. Despite Webjet withdrawing from the bidding contest two months ago, the deal was in limbo until the Melbourne tour operator AOT Group agreed to sell its 19.9 per cent stake before Christmas.
"I'm pleased that AOT accepted the offer; it took us to the 80 per cent mark," Mr Cooke said.
There had been rumours AOT's founder, Andrew Burnes, who built up the stake after Webjet staged its original bid, wanted to use his blocking stake to force Wotif into some joint venture with his own websites Travelmate and Need It Now. Yesterday Wotif dismissed talk that any deal had been made. It is unclear if Mr Burnes, who is the deputy chairman of Tourism Australia, made a profit on his stake. He snapped up the bulk of his stake in October at prices well above the Wotif offer.
The deal is Wotif's first big deal since it listed on the ASX in early 2006. Wotif is now Australia's second-largest listed website, after the job classified website Seek, with a market capitalisation of $1.1 billion. The website will now also be able to sell airline seats.
Travel.com.au's chairman, Roger Sharp, said Wotif's declaration of its unconditional bid was an "excellent outcome for shareholders". Before Wotif made its original 50c offer in October, Mr Sharp's Co-Investor Capital Partners entered into an agreement to sell its 25 per cent stake to Webjet at 44.5c a share.
Wotif shares rose 8c to $5.41. Webjet shares have held up despite its bid falling over. The company issued a profit upgrade in November and in December received a credibility boost when the Sydney fund manager Paradice Investment Management joined its share register.