January 14, 2014 2:37 pm

Opodo owners look to Spain for IPO

Permira and Ardian are considering listing Europe’s largest online travel company in Madrid, highlighting investor enthusiasm for Spain as the country’s recovery gathers pace.

The private equity owners of eDreams Odigeo are weighing an initial public offering this year for the online travel agent that operates under the brands Opodo, GO Voyages, eDreams and Travellink, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The plan is at an early stage and is expected to value the company at about €1.5bn including debt.

A decision to float eDreams Odigeo in Madrid would follow the planned listing of Applus, the certification specialist owned by Carlyle, on the Spanish stock exchange, in a sign of growing investor confidence in the country.

The internet travel company is the combination of several acquisitions of European online operators. Paris-based Ardian, formerly known as Axa Private Equity, bought Go Voyages for €300m-€350m in 2010, outbidding Permira. A few months later, London-based Permira outbid Ardian to buy Barcelona-based eDreams for €250m-€300m.

A year later, both private equity groups teamed to make a joint €500m offer for Opodo, as they sought to build a European champion in the internet travel market to challenge Expedia and Orbitz of the US.

A listing could happen as soon as the first half of this year, possibly in April, one of the people with knowledge of the matter said.

Private equity groups in Europe and the US have been increasing efforts to list their portfolio companies as they try to tap buoyant equity markets to return cash to their investors. In Europe, London has benefited from the flurry of listings, which have included theme-park operator Merlin Entertainments and estate agent Foxtons. But other financial markets have started to be more active. Numericable, a French cable company owned by Cinven, Altice and Carlyle listed in Paris and Italian luxury jacket designer Moncler floated in Milan before Christmas.

Foreign capital has started to flow back to Spain as the eurozone’s debt crisis abated. Applus’s planned flotation, more advanced than that of eDreams Odigeo, will be Madrid’s first large listing since the 2011 flotation of Bankia. Investors were wiped out in the rescue of the troubled lender.

Amadeus, the travel booking operator backed by London buyout houses BC Partners and Cinven, was the last non-financial company to list in Spain, raising €1.3bn in 2010.

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