Wednesday 17 September 2008

Orion on acquisition hunt

Michael Bruce - Travel Weekly

Orion Cruises has abandoned plans to purchase a new-build vessel and will instead look at acquisitions within the next 12 months, founder and managing director Sarina Bratton has said.

Bratton told Travel Today the sale of 94 per cent of the business to Denver-based KSL Capital Partners earlier this year – Bratton retains six per cent – has given Orion the capital base to expand further.

“They saw the benefit and the merit of expanding this brand. They’re coming to understand more about this sector of the industry. They know hotels inside out but when it comes to operating a ship they don’t know a lot. But the thing is they back people.”

She said a number of discussions had been held with shipyards, but the “exorbitant” cost involved in building a vessel meant it was not feasible.

“What we’ve decided is to focus on what other vessels and/or companies might be out there as a potential acquisition,” Bratton said. She refused to say what approaches had been made, but expects to have an acquisition bedded down within 12 months.

Bratton said the marketing scope of KSL’s portfolio of North American leisure and tourism brands, such as Club Corp and Western Athletic Clubs, would also benefit Orion. “We’re the equivalent of a 50-room hotel so your marketing reach is very limited,” Bratton said, pointing to KSL’s huge membership bases as a “really powerful” tool.

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