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Another possible major shake up in the business travel industry is looming after Accor's announcement that it is likely to sell all or part of its 50% stake in Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT).
A statement by the Paris-based hotel company said it planed to focus on its hotel business. "Through this strategy, Accor plans to divest, between 2005 and 2008, around €1,500mof assets," it said.The company immediately announced that it had sold its 1.42% stake in the catering company Compass for €96m.
It is also in the process of selling 82 hotels (see first In Brief column).
Rumours have been flying for several months in Paris that Accor was planning to sell off its holding in the global travel management company.
But it was not confirmed until late last week that the company was considering selling off all or part of its CWT stage.
The turnabout comes just over four months since a new chairman, Serge Weinberg and a new ceo Gilles Pelisson, nephew of the co-founder and outgoing chairman of the company Gerard Pelisson, took over.
The full statement on its strategy said: "To optimise the hotel portfolio, hotel operating structures must be tailored to individual market segments depending on their return on capital employed.
"This rationalisation process means that the portfolio must be thoroughly reviewed to identify strategic hotels to be managed under the appropriate long term holding structureand non-strategic hotels that could be sold, either outright or through sale and franchiseback arrangements."
Accor, one of the largest hotel groups in the world, has more than 4000 properties in 168 countries. Among its hotel brands are Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis.
The other half of CWT is owned by the Minneapolis-based Carlson Companies. These include Regent International Hotels, Radisson Hotels, Park Inn Hotels, Parks Plaza Hotels, cruise companies, the T.G.I. Friday restaurant chain, a marketing company and a leisure travel company.
Carlson and Accor set up CWT in 1997 as a jointly owned travel management company. It has total annual sales of $22bn, putting it second in the world behind American Express Business Travel, and about 500,000 clients in 150 countries.
CWT, which also has its headquarters in Paris declined to comment on the Accor statement, saying: "It is CWT's policy not to comment on shareholder matters."
* Accor also announced a net profit in 2005 of €333m, a rise of 42.9% on 2004.