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September 25, 2013

American Express to Create New Joint Venture for Business Travel




Big news for the business travel industry: The American Express Company has announced plans to create a joint venture designed to accelerate the transformation of its Global Business Travel (GBT) division. 
American Express is in ongoing discussions with regard to a proposed joint venture in which it would share the ownership of the joint venture with an investor group led by Certares, a firm headed by senior management with significant experience in the travel industry. It is expected that GBT’s operations, business relationships and other assets would be held and operated by the joint venture entity. 
In a statement, AmEx said that the joint venture transaction is expected to create greater investment capacity for the GBT "to further enhance its suite of products and services, attract new customers and grow internationally."
As presently contemplated, American Express would maintain a 50 percent ownership stake in the joint venture, which would continue to operate under the American Express Global Business Travel brand, while an investor group led by Certares would own the remaining 50 percent interest. The investor group would invest a sum in the range of $700 million to $1 billion, which would be used by the joint venture to grow the GBT business. Subject to the execution of definitive agreements and receipt of requisite regulatory and other approvals, the transaction would be expected to close in the second quarter of 2014, at which time American Express would expect to recognize again.
It is also anticipated that GBT employees would transition to the new structure which, upon closing, would be managed by a board of directors that would include representatives appointed by American Express and the investor group, as well as selected independent directors. As the parties work toward completion of the transaction, the GBT management team will remain in place and focused on serving the needs of GBT’s business customers. American Express also expects to execute comprehensive commercial agreements to provide uninterrupted service and close coordination for mutual customers of GBT and American Express’ other business units. 
“We’ve been making strong progress in our efforts to transform our corporate travel business,” said Stephen J. Squeri, Group President, Global Corporate Services, American Express. “The first phase of this transformation, announced earlier this year, has been focused on reducing the cost structure within GBT through our technology and infrastructure advances. The joint venture we plan to form represents the next phase of the transformation, which is aimed at accelerating the growth of this business through additional investments that would be used to develop new products, services and capabilities that we expect will help us meet the evolving needs of our current customers, attract new ones, and continue to build our international business. We anticipate that the expansion of our business travel offerings will not only help us grow GBT, but it would also provide additional value to our corporate payments customers, which would help us accelerate growth in that business as well. We believe this structure will provide superior opportunities for delivering customer benefits, retaining world-class talent and achieving long-term success.”
GBT has operations and network partners in 138 countries worldwide, and its customers represent more than $19 billion in corporate travel spend. The new joint venture would be positioned to utilize its own funds to invest in the business while still maintaining and benefitting from the customer benefits of a link to American Express’ other business units, such as Global Corporate Payments, which issues the American Express Corporate Card and provides business-to-business payment solutions. 
American Express’ consumer travel business, which provides Card Members and other consumers with travel benefits and services, would not be part of the proposed transaction.


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