Amex sells off leisure unit in France

PARIS -- Concluding an agreement that was begun in April, American Express sold off the leisure agencies of American Express Havas Voyages, the largest travel company in France, to Germany's C&N Touristic, the third largest travel company in Europe. The cost of the deal was not disclosed.

American Express retains ownership of Havas Voyages' corporate agencies and business centers, as well as Havas Communication Voyages, which specializes in incentives. American Express purchased Havas Voyage in 1998.

American Express said it plans to focus on a growth strategy of developing franchisees. Fifty-five of the 380 agencies that were sold to C&N will be franchised to the American Express network.

Havas Voyages' volume from its corporate business amounted to $1.6 billion in 1999, including revenue from 70 business centers and 150 in-company agencies. The leisure end of its business brought in $889 million.

C&N Touristic, with annual sales of $4.5 billion, currently owns 1,600 agencies across Europe, as well as hotels (51,000 beds), and several tour operators, including Neckermann.

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