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HotelOnline merger will create Nordic frontend with an African engine – Håvar Bauck

Norwegian Håvar Bauck, the founder of Kenyan startup HotelOnline, has merged his startup’s Nordic activities with the Norwegian entity of Key Butler, a Nordic traveltech that assists house owners rent out their homes on AirBnB.

The merger between HotelOnline — which provides solutions for e-commerce and digital marketing to more than 1500 hotels in 18 markets across Africa and South Asia — and Key Butler will result in the launch of a new rental platform.

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HotelOnline was launched in 2014 by Norwegian Bauck (pictured above) and Endre Opdal, initially as Savannah Sunrise, before the name changed to HotelOnline in 2017.

The latest news comes after Bauck — who hit the news earlier this year over his dealings with controversial Polish tech entrepreneur Marek Zmyslowski — announced in July that the travel tech startup had raised $320 000 (see this story).

‘HotelOnline, Key Butler merger will create a Nordic commercial front-end with an African engine’

In an email on Wednesday (11 September) to Ventureburn, Bauck said the merger transaction involves “mutliple stakeholders taking equity”, with HotelOnline as the majority stakeholder in the merged company.

While he did not reveal to Ventureburn the value of the transaction, he pointed out that the combined gross booking value (GBV) of the companies merging, was $1.3-million in 2018. GBV is the travel industry equivalent of gross merchandise value.

In addition, the company’s address will move from Dubai to Oslo.

“This will create a clearer and more transparent corporate structure. The board also considers this a clear advantage in terms of shareholder value. The offices in Nairobi, Lagos and Dakar will remain the engines of HotelOnline, and our core markets will still be Africa and Pakistan,” he added in an email.

‘African solution for Scandinavia’

He said the merger would create a strong entity for the Norwegian market, comprising home rental facilitation, online vacation rental, and the Nordic booking portal Cityhotels.

“Our backoffice in Nairobi, Lagos and Dakar will be the engine of the new Nordic entity, while the merger of these operations will give us the critical mass to create a really strong player in the Norwegian market,” he said.

Bauck said the new merger would create a Nordic commercial front-end with an African engine. “In short, this is an African solution, driving innovation in Scandinavia.”

“Our great teams in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal will be the back-office for the group, including the new Nordic, majority-owned subsidiary.

‘Haven’t spoken to Marek of late’

Ventureburn also asked Bauck whether he had been in contact with Zmyslowski in recent months. Bauck responded that he had not.

While Zmyslowski was still running his startup HotelOga, he tried to save the ailing company by brokering a merger with Savanna Sunrise. He approached the company in January 2017.

Before the merger was even completed, Zmyslowski issued a press release stating that HotelOga had merged with Savanna Sunrise. The deal however, never went through, as Bauck pulled out at the last minute.

Said Bauck on Wednesday: “Regarding Marek, I haven’t interacted with him since the merger talks broke down in 2017, so I am probably not the right person to ask what he is up to”.

Bauck said Nairobi, Lagos and Dakar are his company’s main centres of operations. The Dakar office was a result of the HotelOnline’s acquisition of Teranga in 2018, while the one in Warsaw was a result of a 2017 merger in Poland between Savannah Sunrise and HotelOnline. He added that the Lagos office was built from a scratch.

The company, he said also has a presence in Kampala, Kigali and Islamabad.

Said Bauck: “Our investors seem to genuinely believe in the potential of our business and our markets, and in the ability of our teams to create value. I want to believe that is the reason they invested in us in the first place.”

Read more: Norwegian Håvar Bauck’s Kenyan startup HotelOnline announces it’s raised $320k [Updated]
Read more: Norwegian Håvar Bauck behind Cloud9xp merger in Kenya
Read more: Did Polish man accused of defrauding Nigerian investors lie about merger? [Updated]
Read more: How Nigerian business partner tried to bribe, take over my startup – Polish man
Read more: How it all went down: a timeline of the HotelOga, Marek Zmyslowski saga

Featured image: HotelOnline co-founder Håvar Bauck (YouTube)

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