eDreams comes true for Apax

Online travel business eDreams has been sold by its VC backers to US buyout firm TA Associates for €153m.

Largest shareholder Apax made a 2.5x return on the sale according to a source close to the deal, seven years after the firm first invested in the Barcelona headquartered company.

eDreams was formed in 1999 with backing from Apax, and has become the market leading internet-based travel agency in Southern Europe, covering Spain, Italy and France.

In total eDreams raised around €16m from venture firms in total through two funding rounds. A second round was held in 2000, with Apax returning alongside Atlas Venture, 3i and Doll Capital Management. Apax had a 17.5% stake prior to the sale to TA Associates.

Explaining their purchase, Christian Grünwald, a vice president at TA Associates, who will join the company’s board of directors, said: “In addition to its leading market position, eDreams has very strong financial performance, a superior platform that allows it to offer unique products and services and lower ticket prices than competitors, and a solid and experienced management team. We look forward to working closely with them to further build value in eDreams through organic growth and international expansion.”

eDreams expects sales to exceed €300m this year, almost double the figure for 2005. Fifteen percent of travel bookings are made online in South Europe and this figure is expected to surpass 30% by 2009.

Ajit Nedungadi, director of TA Associates, said: “The Southern European retail travel market is significantly underpenetrated in terms of online purchasing. eDreams will benefit as its target markets catch up with Northern Europe and the US in the proportion of travel purchased online. We expect that the company will continue to gain market share and defend its leading position.”