The flutter of activity in the counter began months earlier. On March 19, Singapore Exchange shot out a trading activity query to Asiatravel and a day later issued a “trade with caution” note on its shares.
On March 17, based on SGX filings, Dr Ong Nai Pew, Asiatravel’s former chief executive officer and its chairman in 2004 and 2005, acquired 1.02 million Asiatravel shares for $209,800, raising his stake from 6 per cent to 6.4 per cent.
On Feb 25, Beijing Toread Outdoor Products, which is listed on Shenzhen Stock Exchange, snapped up 20 million Asiatravel shares in an off-market transaction for $4 million, upping its stake from 14 per cent acquired from a share placement four months earlier to 21.2 per cent.
On its part, Asiatravel has not shied away from publicly indicating that mergers and acquisitions may be on the cards.
Last month, as it released a weak financial scorecard for the second quarter, Asiatravel said it was in “advance discussions with various parties to explore all strategic and MA options”.
It repeated a similar point – that “it has been engaging various parties” to explore options to strengthen its business amid a competitive landscape in the global online travel realm – in a response to SGX’s March query.
Asiatravel’s main dilemma is the growing traffic in a crowded space as more online travel agencies scramble for a piece of the action.
The firm’s main appeal, one that it has built up over the years and which may be hard to replicate, according to an analyst, is its one-stop online business model which provides customers instant confirmation at a single click for hotel, flight and tour package bookings in 12 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
It could be this that has caught the attention of its big Chinese suitors eager to tap the hot outbound Chinese tourists market which last year reportedly hit a record 100 million travellers.
This article was first published on June 4, 2014.
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Top Chinese firms eyeing Asiatravel.com