There would have been a lot of synergies from an Accor-InterContinental combo... But top officials at Accor did not push through with the idea of a coming together. Accor operates brands such as Sofitel, Raffles and Ibis. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Paris: French hotel company Accor considered a possible merger with UK rival InterContinental Hotels Group as the tourism industry grapples with the unprecedented collapse in business from the coronavirus pandemic, Le Figaro reported.

To study a transaction, Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin created a team in June that included Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Morin and bankers from Centerview and Rothschild. Accor's board is in favor of the project in principle, but Bazin decided it wasn't the right moment to move ahead. The company hasn't contacted InterContinental.

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A combination would bring together InterContinental's almost 6,000 hotels, under brands including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, and Accor's 5,000 properties, which include Raffles, Sofitel and Ibis. It would allow for savings on headquarters expenses, reservation systems and loyalty programmes.

InterContinental's shares have fallen 22 per cent this year, giving the company a market value of about 7.4 billion pounds ($9.7 billion). Accor has slumped 44 per cent, for a valuation of 6.1 billion euros ($7.3 billion).

No chance of a takeover

Neither company is in a position to buy the other in an outright takeover, Geoffroy Le Guyader, an arbitrage analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, said.

A deal may have made sense when InterContinental shares bottomed out near 21 pounds this year, but the merits aren't clear now that the stock has rebounded to 40 pounds, analysts Richard Clarke and Harry Martin of Bernstein wrote in a note.

While a combination would be a good geographic fit and offer cost savings, it would be a complex deal, requiring the companies to define the brand portfolio, combine their loyalty programmes and align their relationships with property owners. Accor would be better off concentrating on the "near-free growth" that comes from striking deals with hotel owners to rebrand existing properties, the Bernstein analysts said.

"This will not help the investor perception that Accor management will not stick to its organic growth/simplification strategy and will continue to look for big deals," they wrote.

Companies from the travel and hospitality industries have been hardest hit by the pandemic, with lockdowns and travel restrictions all but wiping out sales for some of them in the most recent quarter. CTS Eventim AG, which organizes concerts and musicals, on Thursday said its revenue fell 97% in the second quarter, a decline topped only by package tour operator TUI AG, where the measure collapsed by almost 99%.