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Hertz to buy Dollar Thrifty for $2.6b after five years

Hertz began its pursuit of Dollar Thrifty in April 2007 and made a formal bid in 2010

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Detroit: Hertz Global Holdings Inc, after more than half a decade of trying, struck a deal to buy Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc for about $2.6 billion (Dh9.5 billion) in cash and secure its place as the No 2 player in the US market.

The $87.50-a-share offer represents an 8 per cent premium to Dollar Thrifty’s closing price of $81 on August 24. It’s more than double what Hertz offered a little more than two years ago.

Hertz Chief Executive Officer Mark Frissora has tried for more than five years to acquire Dollar Thrifty, in what may be the last combination of major US car rental companies that regulators would tolerate. Hertz, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Avis Budget Group Inc. together control about 75 per cent of the market, with Dollar Thrifty at 5 per cent, according to a February report from IBISWorld. No other competitor has more than 1 per cent market share, IBISWorld said.

“We are pleased to have finally reached an agreement with Dollar Thrifty after a lengthy — but worthwhile — pursuit,” Frissora said in the statement. “We have always believed that a combination with Dollar Thrifty is the best strategic option for both companies.”

Equity value

Based on 29.8 million shares outstanding, Dollar Thrifty is being acquired for an equity value of about $2.6 billion. It will cost Hertz about $2.3 billion after considering almost $300 million in cash on Dollar Thrifty’s balance sheet at the end of June, said Richard Broome, a Hertz spokesman. Dollar Thrifty traded below $1 a share in March 2009.

Hertz began its pursuit of Dollar Thrifty in April 2007 and made a formal bid in 2010 of about $1.2 billion that Dollar Thrifty shareholders rejected. Park Ridge, New Jersey-based Hertz made another offer last year that it later withdrew, citing market conditions.

Since that 2010 offer, Dollar Thrifty’s shares have more than doubled, compared with a 9.1 per cent increase in the Russell 2000 Index. Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Dollar Thrifty has traded at a premium to the index on a price-to-sales ratio since early last year.

“Hertz has made a compelling offer to our stockholders that reflects the strengths of our business and our team,” Dollar Thrifty CEO Scott Thompson said in the statement. “Hertz is the logical partner for us with the resources to expand our value-focused leisure brands in key car-rental markets around the world.”

Two steps

Hertz also said on Monday that it agreed to sell its Advantage brand to Franchise Services of North America Inc and Macquarie Group Ltd’s Macquarie Capital. The purchase price was $16 million, one person with knowledge of the situation said. The sale is dependent upon Hertz completing the acquisition of Dollar Thrifty.

Franchise Services, which operates the U-Save brand, is run by Co-Chief Executive Officer Sanford Miller, the CEO of Budget Group Inc from 1997 to 2004.

Hertz and Dollar Thrifty described their transaction as a two-step process starting with a cash tender offer for all outstanding shares of Dollar Thrifty followed by a cash merger to acquire any remaining shares of common stock.

The transaction is subject to regulatory clearance by the Federal Trade Commission. Hertz said it has remained closely engaged with the FTC to secure antitrust clearance.

Hertz and Dollar Thrifty see savings of at least $160 million annually from the combination. The companies said they would hold a conference call on Monday at 9am New York time about the transaction.

Last option

The combined company would have reported $10.2 billion in sales and $1.8 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation over the last 12 months, according to the statement.

“Dollar Thrifty is the last acquirable rental car company of size,” Fred Lowrance, a Nashville, Tennessee-based analyst at Avondale Partners, said in a telephone interview. “We may see some other, smaller things happen, but nothing that will change the composition of the industry in any material way.’

Enterprise will command 38 per cent of the $30.5 billion market in the US this year, according to a February report from IBISWorld, the Santa Monica, California-based industry researcher. Hertz will have 18.9 per cent, followed by Avis with 18.5 per cent and Dollar Thrifty at 5 per cent.

Hertz’s largest rivals have more than one brand, allowing them to charge varying prices and target a broader range of customers from higher-end business travellers to vacationing families seeking a discount, Lowrance said.

2010 Offer

Enterprise, based in St Louis, operates National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car, as well as its flagship Enterprise Rent-A-Car brand. Parsippany, New Jersey-based Avis has both the Avis premium brand and Budget Car Rental, which caters to leisure travellers. Leisure travel makes up 41 per cent of the market in the US, according to IBISWorld.

Hertz’s original offer for Dollar Thrifty came in April 2010 and was $41. That prompted Avis Budget Group Inc, which had also considered a bid, to join the pursuit. Avis made its initial bid for Dollar Thrifty in July 28 and sweetened it twice. Dollar Thrifty’s board backed Hertz’s offer, deeming it the one most likely to clear antitrust hurdles.

Dollar Thrifty shareholders rejected what Hertz called its “best and final” offer in September 2010 to buy the company for about $1.2 billion. The vote was about 13.8 million shares against the Hertz bid, versus 11.8 million shares in favour.

After the other aborted offer, Hertz said it planned to divest its Advantage brand to appease Federal Trade Commission concerns.

Avis Europe

Avis in October 2011, acquired Avis Europe Plc, a month after ending its formal pursuit of Dollar Thrifty. Avis saw it as getting too expensive, according to the person familiar with the situation.

While Hertz reaffirmed in a July 31 statement that it still was interested in an acquisition, Dollar Thrifty CEO Thompson said the next day Hertz should make a “compelling offer” or end the process.

Dollar Thrifty contacted Avis Budget Group Inc. last month to solicit a new offer, a person with knowledge of the matter said at the time. Avis declined, the person said.

In recent weeks, Hertz began soliciting Dollar Thrifty shareholders to gauge their selling price, according to three people with knowledge of the process. Hertz also asked investors if a hostile bid should be pursued, said one of the people.

The final offer was approved unanimously by the two boards. Now a majority of Dollar Thrifty shares must be tendered for the deal to proceed.

‘Stronger’ globally

The transaction doesn’t include breakup fees, people familiar with the negotiations said. That means that Hertz wouldn’t have to pay Dollar Thrifty if antitrust regulators block the transaction, and Dollar Thrifty wouldn’t have to pay if it took a higher offer from a third party.

The terms of the deal would allow Dollar Thrifty to solicit a higher offer for 30 days, the people said.

“We’ll be a stronger global competitive player with a full range of rental options not only in the US but in Europe and other markets given Dollar Thrifty’s strong international presence,” Frissora said in the statement. “We look forward to moving efficiently and swiftly through the regulatory process having reached an agreement to divest our Advantage brand.”

Thompson stands to profit personally from the transaction, especially because of options granted to him when the stock price was much lower. Based on Thompson’s holdings as of an April filing, his stock and options would be worth $59.4 million at the takeover price. If he loses his job because of the deal, he’s also entitled to benefits including about $10.4 million in severance, $6.5 million in performance shares and a $5.8 million tax “gross up,” Dollar Thrifty said in the April filing.