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Private equity groups to buy Sabre Holdings

December 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

DALLAS — Sabre Holdings Corp., parent of the online travel-booking service Travelocity.com and a leading distributor of airline reservations, said Tuesday that it was being acquired by private equity groups for about $4.5 billion.

Consumers should not be affected by the change in ownership, analysts said.

Silver Lake Partners and Texas Pacific Group would pay $32.75 a share in cash for the company, which connects airline, hotel and car-rental inventories with travel agents. The buyers also would assume about $550 million in debt.

The price per share is a 30% premium over Sabre's average closing stock price over the last 60 days, the companies said. The deal requires approval by Sabre shareholders and is expected to close next spring.

Shares of Sabre rose $1.53, or 5%, to $31.96.

The deal came together quickly after another private equity firm, Blackstone Group, announced last week that it would pay $4.3 billion for Travelport, a Sabre rival. Another leading reservations company, Spain's Amadeus IT Group, was sold to private equity firms last year.

Private buyout firms flush with cash have snapped up reservations systems, which generate a great deal of cash and are being helped by strong demand for travel.

The sale into private hands will let Sabre focus more on long-term needs than the short-term demands to push its stock price higher, Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt said.

Sabre and its rivals have diversified away from their original business of providing travel-reservation services to the airlines as the financially strapped carriers cut their fees.

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