19 January 2006 | Amon Cohen
Ownership changes have left many buyers starting 2006 with travel management company (TMC) suppliers under new proprietors and in radically changed overseas networks.
Hogg Robinson, the parent company of BTI UK, the UK's largest TMC, has ended its 15-year Business Travel International joint venture with Dutch company BCD Holdings.
The split leaves Hogg Robinson with ownership or control of BTI businesses in 21 countries.
Many other BTI partners (the joint venture had partners in 100 countries) are owned locally, by licensees who join a network. This means while Hogg Robinson has the largest chunk of the old network - which it is likely to rename - licensees will probably be approached by other new networks urging them to join.
BCD owns or controls what were BTI partners in the US and Netherlands and a few smaller markets. It simultaneously bought assets owned by German travel giant TUI in another global joint venture, TQ3 Travel Solutions. TUI owned the TQ3 partners in the UK and several European countries, plus India, South Africa and Canada.
BCD has also bought a 20 per cent stake in a leading UK independent TMC, The Travel Company, and will now combine its interests into a new network ahead of a full merger.
The other joint venture partner in TQ3, the US-based Navigant International, now owns the whole brand.
All parties have given assurances that it will be "business as usual" for existing clients and Tom Stone, director of travel management consultancy Sirius Management, said he believes them. "The last thing they want is to alienate their existing customer base."
He predicted a frenzy of activity by the networks to buy TMCs in key business markets and sign licensees in less important ones.
This means more TMCs are likely to change hands imminently, with Hogg Robinson believed to be among those in the hunt.