Jobs safe after sale of East Anglian holiday firm

Paul Hill, business editorThe new owner of one of the best-known names in East Anglian tourism, Hoseasons, last night pledged that jobs are safe at the firm's headquarters in Lowestoft.Paul Hill, business editor

The new owner of one of the best-known names in East Anglian tourism, Hoseasons, pledged last night that jobs were safe at the firm's headquarters at Lowestoft.

Hoseasons has been bought by American travel giant Wyndham Worldwide for �51m in a move that ended weeks of speculation about the firm's future.

Wyndham owns a series of major self-catering brands in the UK, including English Country Cottages and Cottages4you, and operates more than 60,000 holiday properties across Europe.

Ian Ailles, managing director of Wyndham Exchange & Rentals, said it would be business as usual at the Hoseasons HQ in Raglan Road and stressed that the workforce of 200 had nothing to fear from the change of ownership.

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"We see Lowestoft as a great know-ledge centre which brings another dimension to the Wyndham busi-ness," he added. "Hoseasons is a truly fantastic and iconic brand. We'll be looking over time to drive the Hoseasons brand to new heights."

As both firms sell travel insurance as part of their business, the deal has to be approved by the UK regulator, the Financial Services Authority.

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The deal will end a seven-year spell for Hoseasons under the ownership of private equity group HgCapital, which bought it for �40m in 2003.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard welcomed the deal, saying: "I've spoken to the company and they've given me a commitment to Lowestoft, a commitment to the Hoseasons brand and a commitment to grow the business. On that basis, it has to be a good-news story for Lowestoft.

"It takes the company out of private equity, which means they are more able to invest in expanding the company and improving it."

Hoseasons chief executive Richard Carrick described the Wyndham deal as a fantastic opportunity. He added: "You always know with private equity ownership that there's likely to be a sale within five to eight years, and this deal falls in the middle of that, so in some respects it's not great surprise. There are certain advan-tages to private equity, but the disadvantage is that it's difficult to take a long-term strategic view because you know that in the future there'll be a sale.

"The new owners, Wyndham, have been around for a long time and are one of the world's most successful travel businesses. They've got a commitment to invest further in the Hoseasons brand, which has a great heritage but which may have been held back a little by the lack of the longer-term view.

"It's good news for the brand; it's good news for the staff here and good news for the property owners, because the combined distribution strength of the organisation puts us in an unparalleled position in the travel industry."

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