Exclusive: Sightseeing firm Big Bus Tours hires JPMorgan for sale - sources

Thu Oct 9, 2014 3:24pm EDT
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By Pamela Barbaglia, Freya Berry and Stanley Carvalho

LONDON/ABU DHABI (Reuters) - One of the world's largest operators of open-top sightseeing tours, Big Bus Tours, has hired JPMorgan to find a buyer in a deal that could value the travel firm at close to 500 million pounds ($810 million), sources familiar with the situation said.

The company's owners have appointed the U.S. bank to lead a strategic review with a view to launching a sale process early next year, said one of the sources who could not be named because the matter is confidential.

Big Bus Tours was formed in 2011 by the meger of London-based The Big Bus Company (TBBC) and French peer Les Cars Rouges. At the time the merged entity had over 800 staff and a combined fleet of 300 open-top buses with more than 2 million customers each year.

Big Bus Tours shareholders include the Maybury family, which founded TBBC in 1991 and Abu Dhabi-based Al Fahim Group, which acquired 30 percent of TBBC in 2007.

Representatives of Big Bus Tours could not be reached for comment. Spokesmen for JPMorgan and Al Fahim Group declined to comment.

Big Bus Tours, which has become a familiar London presence with its burgundy and cream-colored open-top buses, generates core earnings of around 50 million pounds. It could be valued at about 500 million pounds given its global operations in 16 cities across three continents, two of the sources said.

The process remains in the early stages and prospective bidders have yet to receive initial briefing material, the sources said.

Private equity investors have so far shown appetite for travel assets particularly those combining travel operations and online booking services.   Continued...

A sign outside the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co in New York, September 19, 2013.   REUTERS/Mike Segar