German Equity Partners IV (“GEP IV“), a fund managed by the German private equity firm ECM Equity Capital Management GmbH (“ECM”), has acquired 100% of the equity in Leitner GmbH & Co. KG (“Leitner”), a leading travel operator with a focus on coach, aircraft or cruise ship travel, based in Allersberg near Nuremberg. The shares, previously wholly owned by the Blankenburg family, have been transferred to GEP IV with effect from 8th December. The purchase price and further details of the transaction were not disclosed. After more than 20 years of steady growth the previous shareholders – together with the company’s new shareholder and its current management – intend to capitalize on Leitner’s strong market position and scalable business model to capitalize on opportunities for further growth in a dynamic market.
Leitner is currently predominantly active in southern Germany. In the future a geographic expansion in Germany is envisaged. In a first step, the company plans to expand its marketing area to northern Germany. Apart from organic growth Leitner, supported by its new investor, also intends to grow through add-on acquisitions. In addition, the company plans to invest in its product portfolio, corporate organization, fleet of vehicles as well as additional personnel.
From local bus travel company to diversified tour operator
Established as a local coach operator by Josef Leitner in 1948, the company was acquired by the Blankenburg family in 1992. Since then the business has expanded to become a diversified tour operator with a core competence in organized bus, flight or cruise based travel packages. Leitner organized travel for approximately 150,000 customers in 2013, generating approximately EUR 70 million in revenue, which makes the company one of the leading tour operators in Germany.
Business model presents significant growth prospects
Leitner’s successful business model is based on organized trips by coach (including bicycle tours), aircraft or cruise ship. The combination of highly flexible product development processes and a focused direct sales approach enable Leitner to offer appealing value for money travel to attractive destinations. Maintaining the highest quality standards and placing great emphasis on reliability, Leitner has secured a market share of around 40 percent in its core region of southern Germany. It is the leader in this dynamically growing market segment.
Global demand for tourist travel is growing and market experts expect this trend to continue in the future supported by favorable demographics. Full service travel packages – i.e. professionally organized trips with attractive all-inclusive entertainment programs combined with qualified tour management – are becoming increasingly popular. In Germany this market segment currently represents approx. annual sales of EUR 900 million. Due to its limited geographic focus, Leitner currently addresses roughly 20% of this market.
The company plans to realize growth potential more quickly. Additional growth opportunities relate to product extension, for instance by including in its offerings long-haul destinations, in addition to an expansion of the company’s online sales activities.
Current Management to support future growth path
After the acquisition by the ECM managed fund GEP IV Leitner will continue to be led by its current management team. Both Andreas and Gertrud Blankenburg will continue in their roles as managing directors for a transitional period. Thereafter Mr. Blankenburg will join the newly established advisory board thus ensuring continuity in the company’s strategy. Additionally, the long-term Chief Operating Officer, Erwin Fries, will remain a senior member of the Leitner management team.
Andreas Blankenburg, Managing Director of Leitner, commented: “Over the course of the past two decades we have established Leitner with its successful business model as a leading player in the German tourism market. Now is the right time for focused investment in the growth of our company to realize growth opportunities. For our dedicated employees and our loyal customers, it was of utmost importance to find a new owner with a long-term investment approach as well as an excellent reputation. From the beginning of discussions the ECM team has convinced us with its comprehensive knowledge of our industry. The discussions with ECM were characterized by a high degree of cooperation and mutual trust. We are therefore convinced that with the ECM managed fund we have won the best owner for Leitner.”
Erwin Fries, Chief Operating Officer since 1992, added: „Growth in the German tourism market is based on increased market share. Flexibility is one of our core strengths. As the leading tour operator with a focus on organized coach, flight or cruise trips we offer our customers great value for money trips to the most attractive destinations. In ECM we have now found an experienced partner, that has supported many companies in their growth plans. Going forward, we will benefit from ECM’s financial know-how and its 20 years of experience.”
Florian Kähler, partner at ECM, commented: „Based on Leitner’s strong position in the tourism market, the flexibility of its product development and its unmatched expertise on organized coach, aircraft and cruise ship tours the company is an attractive platform for further growth. Both, the company’s business model and its management team have convinced us and we look forward to jointly developing Leitner over the medium- to long-term in order to accelerate its expansion.”
The acquisition of Leitner is the most recent investment by the private equity fund GEP IV that commenced investing its EUR 230 million committed capital in October 2012. The fund is managed by ECM and aims to acquire majority shareholdings in mid-sized enterprises in the DACH region. GEP IV was advised in this transaction by Ernst & Young (Finance & Tax). Legal advice was provided by Allen & Overy, while King & Wood Mallesons structured the transaction. Commercial due diligence was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and insurance review by Willis. Florian Kähler, Axel Eichmeyer, Alexander Schönborn and Tobias Fuchs are responsible for the transaction at ECM. The owners of Leitner were advised by Huber Reuss & Kollegen. Legal advice was provided by ACURIS Rechtsanwälte, while firm Friedlein Endrich Stein provided financial and tax advice.
Leitner, based in Allersberg near Nuremberg is a leading tour operator with focus on organized coach, aircraft or cruise ship trips. Over the past two decades the company has established itself as market leader in this segment in southern Germany. Leitner plans to expand its strong market position across Germany in the coming years. With its 85 employees Leitner has transported approximately 150,000 travelers in 2013, generating approximately EUR 70 million in revenue, which makes the company one of the leading travel operators in Germany.
Further information at: www.leitner-reisen.de
On behalf of ECM:
Charles Barker Corporate Communications GmbH
Jan Hromadko, Kornelia Spodzieja, Tel. +49 69 794090-44,