Sabre Finalized Abacus Pact

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DALLAS -- The Sabre Group and Abacus finalized their proposed partnership, creating a joint-venture company and provisions for Sabre to provide a customized version of its reservations system to 7,300 Abacus subscribers in Asia.

Sabre becomes Abacus' new host system, replacing World-span, which loses its only presence in the Pacific Rim.

Meanwhile, Worldspan -- carrying out a previously announced plan -- terminated its hosting arrangement for the Abacus system on Feb. 28, leaving subscribers whose systems could not be linked quickly to Sabre without any CRS.

In January, Worldspan told Abacus it would terminate its hosting arrangement at the end of February, forcing Sabre to switch to its system 7,300 agencies in 16 countries in a matter of days. Such a task typically takes a year or two.

Worldspan said it made Abacus an offer last week to continue hosting the system beyond the Feb. 28 deadline "for an orderly transition." However, Abacus declined. Worldspan did not elaborate.

At a press conference just prior to the Feb. 28 deadline, Sabre Travel Information Network president Eric Speck said Worldspan's "unprecedented" action could disrupt the traveling public and the travel industry throughout Asia. But he maintained Sabre was ready. The system customization work, he said, was finished.

Three-quarters of the Abacus subscribers had been trained on the new system and the changes to certain Abacus products to accommodate the conversion were complete. More than 140 Sabre staff were relocated to Southeast Asia to assist agents and to staff the help desk, Speck said.

Nevertheless, a quick migration was expected to create bedlam at thousands of Asian agencies; certainly those who remained to be trained would be ill-equipped to use Sabre even if the link were in place.

In the U.S., Speck said Sabre subscribers can expect to see a "broader, deeper and vaster" collection of Asian content as a result of the CRS' increased presence in the region.

Under the joint venture, Sabre pledged to invest $139 million in cash and $100 million in assets for a 35% stake in the new company, called Abacus International. Abacus will own 65%.

With the Abacus pact, Sabre becomes a dominant player in Asia. It also has stakes in Axess and Infini, the Japan-based CRSs; Sabre Pacific, and Sitar, all of which will eventually be integrated, Speck said.

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