CRUISE.co.uk, the specialist online travel agent serving the UK ocean cruise market, is to be acquired by Bridgepoint Development Capital from Risk Capital Partners in a transaction totalling £52 million.
Originally part of Carnival Corporation from which it spun out in 2007, the company is based in the Midlands, employs 170 people and is the leading online player in its space thanks to a strongly differentiated proposition and its content driven website and highly personal customer service. It also has a market-leading social media presence and online cruise review forum with over 110,000 members and 17 million web visits per annum.
The business has demonstrated strong growth, delivering sales and EBITDA CAGR of 23% and 30% respectively over the last three years. In 2015 turnover grew by 15% to £104.5 million. The company also enjoys industry leading repeat rates of business.
The UK ocean cruise market is the second largest globally (after the US) whose value is forecast to grow from £2.5 billion in 2015 to £3.0 billion in 2019 and has been resilient across cycles. The market benefits from several favourable demand and supply characteristics that include a growing customer demographic with increasing wealth, life expectancy and propensity to travel, as well as an increasing supply of cruises from cruise lines themselves.
Adrian Willetts, partner of Bridgepoint Development Capital, said: "CRUISE.co.uk is an opportunity to invest in a market leading consumer business that has shown strong defensive characteristics and benefits from strong market trends that will underpin its ambitious growth plans. It has grown impressively and we will seek to maintain and enhance its trusted expert reputation as we work with management to accelerate business growth through acquisitions and drive further value through digital and marketing expertise."
Seamus Conlon, CRUISE.co.uk's managing director, added: "We're delighted to welcome Bridgepoint as a new partner and shareholder to help us take our business forward in its next stage of development. Their financial and operational expertise will power our ambitions, particularly as we look to expand internationally."
Senior debt financing for the transaction was provided by Royal Bank of Scotland. Advisers involved included: for Bridgepoint - KPMG (Corporate finance, tax, financial diligence), Eversheds (legal), OC&C (commercial), Intuitus (IT), ERM (ESG), Marsh (insurance) and White Hart Associates (regulatory); for the vendor (Risk Capital Partners) - BDO (corporate finance), CMS (legal), Armstrong (commercial), and Deloitte (financial); for management - Altium.
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