Otto Buys 25 German Amex Travel Agencies

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FRANKFURT-American Express has sold its 25 travel agency offices in Germany to Otto Versand, the world's largest mail order house, in a deal that took effect on June 1. Fiaanical details were not made public.

At the same time Otto put the 25 Amex offices together with more than 20 of its own travel agencies in an American Express franchise group that will continue to be known as "Reiseland American Express" and carry the old Amex group's logo - "Blue Box."

"This is not a contraction of our travel activities in the German market but an expansion," Wolfgang Below, the head of American Express travel services in Germany said. The Blue Box group will continue to offer basic American Express services and expand the Amex brand to the "new territories," meaning the area of the former so-called German Democratic Republic.

Otto is putting its East and North German agencies into the new combine which will continue to provide cardholder services including replacement of lost cards and sale of Amex travelers checks.

Below said that franchising travel services or undertaking joint ventures with foreign operators is becoming an Amex strategy "in selected markets."

In April American Express entered into a joint venture with the Belgian bank BBL entitled BBL Travel American Express that is due to start next year. Amex already has joint venture with Havas Voyages in France and with Nyman & Schultz in Sweden.

For Otto the purchase is a complement and completion of its travel services that will allow "valuable synergies and an expansion of travel products on offer," an Otto statement said.

Otto has been in the travel business since 1993 and spun off a travel subsidiary a year later that has a network of 140 travel agencies in Germany. Last year tourism earned the company DM 528 million ($296.6 million)
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