Press Release

December 07, 2015

Destinations of the World, a Gulf Capital Portfolio Company, acquires 100% of Bico in a major expansion drive in Asia

Acquisition helps DOTW expand in South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan and creates an emerging markets leader in the accommodation wholesale sector.

Gulf Capital, one of the leading alternative investment firms in the Middle East, announced today that its portfolio company, Destinations of the World (“DOTW”) has acquired 100% of Bico, a major player in the Asian accommodation wholesale market, in a groundbreaking deal for the sector. With this third portfolio bolt-on acquisition in Asia Pacific, Gulf Capital drives ahead with creating homegrown global companies in various industries, including oil and gas services, water and desalination, power and, with this latest acquisition, the wholesale travel market.

DOTW is a leading global wholesale travel company established in Dubai in 1993. It has grown into one of the world’s largest accommodation wholesalers, operating an exclusively B2B distribution model in one of the fastest growing segments of the global travel industry. The company secures access to hotel room inventory in different travel destinations and sells hotel room bookings to its multi-regional distribution network of travel agents, online travel agents, airlines and tour operators. The company has established a solid leadership position across MENA, enjoying a 95% penetration of the region’s travel retailer agency market. The latest acquisition gives it a strong foothold in the Asian market.

Established in 1997 as an inbound travel agency in Japan offering travel solutions to South Koreans travelling to Japan, Bico has since grown to become a leading player in the Asian accommodation wholesale market expanding its reach into China, Hong Kong, Taiwan in addition to Japan and South Korea.

The combined DOTW and Bico businesses will offer customers access to over 150,000 hotel properties worldwide, with more than 37,000 properties contracted directly. Existing hotel and accommodation partners will benefit from a significant increase in scale and diversity of distribution, covering the industry’s highest growth markets. With a strategic focus on expansion in Asia Pacific, the combined businesses will benefit from a large regional footprint and offices in nine countries. This will further facilitate the delivery of a fully localised service for both customers and suppliers across emerging and growth markets.

Dr. Karim El Solh, Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Capital said: “This acquisition represents a landmark deal for Gulf Capital and DOTW. This is our third portfolio bolt-on acquisition in Asia Pacific, demonstrating Gulf Capital’s ability to build global companies out of the Gulf region. The combined DOTW and Bico businesses create a global leader in the wholesale travel market with a wide footprint from the Middle East and Europe all the way to Asia Pacific. We look forward to replicating such transformational acquisitions across our investment portfolio to create even more global market leaders originating from the Gulf region.”

Keith Fernandez, Founder and Chairman of DOTW: “These are exciting times for DOTW, and I am very happy to be joining forces with another veteran player in the industry. The Bico team has built a strong business in Asia-Pacific that is not easily replicable. I look forward to a great partnership with Bico.” 

Richard Dallas, Managing Director, Private Equity at Gulf Capital, commented: “Over the last year, the investment team has worked hard, in partnership with DOTW’s management, to identify the right opportunities to spearhead DOTW’s expansion into new geographies. We are thrilled to announce the Bico transaction as the first of many to be realised over the coming years. DOTW is consolidating the wholesale travel sector in emerging markets and rapidly arising as a global leader.”

James Burdett, Chief Executive Officer of DOTW said: “Bico has built a business with an enviable position in complex markets with high barriers to entry. These markets play a pivotal role in regional travel and are highly complementary with our existing destination and distribution strengths. We look forward to working with the Bico team to further strengthen our position in Asia Pacific and deliver the synergies that make our companies a perfect fit.”

Tarek Mounib, Executive Director, Private Equity at Gulf Capital, concluded: “Bico combination with DOTW strengthens the collective group’s offering and allows it to realise significant scale economies. We are very excited to assist DOTW in its global growth phase and look forward to expanding into further geographies.”

The transaction was funded internally by DOTW available cash. Gulf Capital and DOTW were advised by Kim & Chang, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and jointly by TC Capital and Locus Capital Partners.