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Amadeus, MTN stake $40m in online travel agency, Travelstart

Amadeus, MTN stake $40m in online travel agency, Travelstart

Amadeus, the global technology investor and South Africa’s MTN Group, said today that they have invested $40 million in Travelstart, under a move by both company to explore stakes in online travel markets in Nigeria, and across Africa.

Travelstart, which also operates in the Nigerian market, is the leading online travel agency in Africa, and has built a market leadership position in South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and parts of the Middle East, the companies said amid their fresh stakes in the business.

“The growth investment by Amadeus and MTN will enable Travelstart to enter new markets and extend its market dominance throughout Africa, as the online travel agency responds to strong demand from a rapidly expanding middle class with Internet access”, according to the joint statement.

Travelstart was founded in Sweden in 1999 by its CEO Stephan Ekbergh. Operating in Africa from its Cape Town headquarters since 2006, Ekbergh has built Travelstart into the market leader in South Africa, with over 75% market share, they said.

The company has since entered other emerging markets across the Middle East and Africa, achieving revenues north of $200m in 2015, and market leadership positions in Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya.

Amadeus and MTN expect that their new investments will help the expansion of Travelstart into other key markets, as well as the growth of its product offering.

The company will also develop a strategic partnership with MTN, who will support Travelstart’s expansion through its mobile network and footprints across Africa.

Andrea Traversone, Partner at Amadeus, who led the investment, says “Our investment in Travelstart is among the largest venture investments in South Africa in the last five years. Africa has one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world that are fast adopting e-commerce and mobile internet access. These macro trends support Travelstart’s growth and bode well for their strategic relationship with MTN. With this transaction, Amadeus has demonstrated its commitment to strong investment opportunities such as Travelstart that respond to these trends in emerging markets.”

Stephan Ekbergh, Founder and CEO, Travelstart, says that, “Amadeus Capital’s investment comes at an inflexion point for Travelstart, as we capitalise on a boom in online travel bookings across Africa and Middle East. Air travel in Africa is expected to grow significantly faster than in most regions globally, with a host of low cost carriers targeting the region. Alongside the strategic partnership with Africa’s best connected mobile operator MTN, Amadeus’ investment and guidance will prove invaluable in continuing to build our market leading position.”

Founded in 1999 in Sweden, Travelstart prides itself as the true pioneer of online travel, while its African businesses were spun off in 2010 to focus on the emerging market opportunity, where it has been growing profitably since and now has 75% market share.

Travelstart provides travellers with real-time access to thousands of flights from all carriers and serves two million monthly users in 16 countries. Travelstart has been in South Africa since 2006 and has offices in Cape Town, Dubai, Istanbul, Lagos, Cairo and Dar es Salaam.

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Donatus Anichukwueze Technology Writer at Technology Times Media e-mail: donatus.anichukwueze@technologytimes.ng