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INDUSTRY INNOVATORS: GATEGROUP gategroup CEO Xavier Rossinyol, left, and Servair CEO Michel Emeyriat at the announcement of the purchase, which took effect January 1

Ahead

together

T

he news came just before the turning of the New Year, that the anticipated sale of the travel catering industry’s fourth largest player was now completed, with the new owner taking operational control of a network of units extending from the heart of Europe to the heart of Africa and beyond. The December 29 announcement that gategroup would head into 2017 with a greatly enlarged network of airline catering units and access to the expertise of some of the most decorated chefs in the world, was only part of the memorable year of the Zurich-based company. Just a week before the purchase announcement of Servair, the final steps were completed that placed gategroup itself in the hands of the HNA Group, a diverse conglomerate based in Haikou, Hainan, China with holdings in aviation, real estate, financial services, tourism and logistics. With the purchase — which gives gat36  |  PAX INTERNATIONAL  |  MARCH/APRIL 2017

With the acquisition of Servair completed, gategroup has become a player with greatly expanded reach and inroads to a growing China market and greater culinary expertise by RICK LUNDSTROM

egroup a worldwide network of more than 200 facilities in 60 countries — the newly formed partnership will provide current and future airline customers access to more locations. What it signals to the industry is the possibility of a new round of consolidations, as other players attempt to replicate or surpass the gategroup network. Though the sale of 50% minus one share stake in Servair was completed at the end of the year, negotiations were ongoing through last summer. Servair’s owner, Air France, began exclusive negotiations with the HNA Group for the sale of the catering units in at the end of May 2016. When the sale of gategroup to the HNA Group was completed December 22, the €237.5 million (US$255.7 million) purchase of the major stake of Servair was completed the following week. The acquisition will be solely financed by gategroup, and projects a combined company with annual revenue of CHF 4.4 billion (US$4.4 billion).

“Air France remains a key shareholder of Servair, but it was clear in the agreement that gategroup will control the board of directors and will control the daily management of the company,” said Xavier Rossinyol, CEO of gategroup. “From an operational point of view we are acting as one single group.” Servair’s former complete owner said the new partnership will allow the two catering companies to accelerate the introduction of products and services to a vast group of 300 airline customers. “Through this transaction, Air France provides Servair with the resources required for its future growth to enable the company to maintain the highest standards in the airline catering industry globally, thanks to an industrial partnership with a leading player,” said a December 29 release from Air France. For gategroup, Rossinyol said the acquisition would be a partnership beneficial

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