Travel group Kuoni picks private equity firm EQT as suitor: Reuters

Travel firm Kuoni (KUNN.S) said on Thursday private equity group EQT was its preferred suitor among several potential bidders wooing the Swiss group and final negotiations were now in progress.

Kuoni had been looking at strategic options to fix its ailing business, hit by competition from online travel offers and unrest in tourist hotspots, such as Egypt and Tunisia.

“Kuoni Group’s Board of Directors confirms that EQT has emerged as the preferred party from a competitive process regarding a potential takeover offer for the Kuoni Group and other strategic options,” the group said in a statement.

EQT was not immediately available to comment.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the Swedish private equity firm was among several potential bidders for the 110-year-old travel group. Sources said at the time that bids were due by the end of January.

“Final negotiations with EQT for a potential takeover offer for Kuoni Group are in progress. At this stage, no final decisions have been taken and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made,” Kuoni said, adding further information would be provided when appropriate.

Kuoni shares rose 6.7 percent on Thursday, valuing the firm at 1.25 billion Swiss francs ($1.23 billion), following a report by Bloomberg that EQT was close to striking a deal to buy Kuoni.

“It looks like a deal is moving closer,” said Jon Cox, analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux. “There is no mention of price – but I don’t expect it to be much above the current stock price.”

Kuoni last year sold what was once its mainstay tour operating activities in Europe and Asia amid fierce competition, there, leaving it with travel services units including a growing visa unit that arranges travel permits for governments and companies.

It is also extensively restructuring its loss-making Global Travel Services (GTS) division.