20 APR 2011: The weather may be cool but the rumours are heating up. Are there hunters on the prowl? Are carollers at the door? The UK papers yesterday ignited a flurry of activity which resulted in iTravel2000 parent Travelzest confirming that it was at the very early stages of deal talks. It quickly noted however, that there was no certainty that the discussions would result in an offer. For Canadians, the interesting part of the story is that rumoured to be sitting across the negotiating table from Travelzest are père et fils Hunter.

First things first, neither Colin nor Stephen Hunter, nor Jonathan Carroll, could be reached for comment before publication. So much of this is speculation based on the reports from the UK media.

What’s not speculation is that Travelzest shares responded to the rumours with a 12% rise.

Not the first dance...

This is not the first time Travelzest and the Hunters have been linked. Back in November 2009, we reported that former Travelzest boss, Chris Mottershead, would shortly join TUI Travel to work on the merger of its struggling Canadian business with rival Sunwing

Mottershead subsequently joined TUI and is now heading their Russia programme. His departure saw itravel2000’s Jonathan Carroll and Jack Fraser brought in to head up the group as CEO and finance director respectively.

And, last September, Sunwing entered a joint venture with TUI Travel which saw Signature and Selloff Vacations operating under the Sunwing portfolio.

Meanwhile at Travelzest...

Current rumours have the group’s management, led by Carroll and Fraser, preparing a bid for Travelzest that varies, depending on the source, between £29 ($42.2) million, to about £40 ($64.4) million including the assumption of its existing £8.8 ($13.7) million debt burden.

The bid is apparently backed by Canada’s Scotia Capital, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and BMO Bank of Montreal.

Gartmore, the biggest shareholder in Travelzest, with 30%, is believed to have been made aware of the proposal a few weeks ago.

Home are the Hunters...

The Times suggests that the “mooted buyout” is being backed by the Hunter family, who control “Canadian tour operator Sunwing.”

The Times says, “City sources claim that, after the proposed buyout, Travelzest’s itravel2000 unit would be injected into a new company in which the Hunter family would have a 55% stake, with the rest owned by Mr. Carroll and Mr. Fraser.

“The sources said that the new company is also planning to acquire SellOffVacations.com, a Canadian online group that specialises in low-priced last-minute holiday deals, for about £9.5 ($14.8) million.”

And, perhaps most interesting of all ...

Selloffvacations.com plus iTravel2000 equals ... very interesting.

Stay tuned...

Check what we said back in November 2009: Click here

Banner Image: Stephen and Colin Hunter. Jonathan Carroll

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