Travelport has signalled one of the reasons it has upped its stake in eNett, the payment service joint venture of which it now owns 73%.
Speaking following the release of its latest financial earnings, Travelport CEO Gordon Wilson says eNett could "potentially be bigger" than its majority owner in the future given its rapid growth in recent years.
eNett was valued in the "low double-digit" range when it was created with PSP International in the summer of 2009, Wilson says, but recent investment (when Travelport increased its ownership from 57% to the new stake last week) and a new handling agreement with its partner could see a significant increase in its value in the years ahead.
Given the business is currently valued at $450 million there is obviously some way to go, but Wilson says there is a "huge opportunity" to not only target the $780 billion floating around the travel industry but to also target other sectors that require a third party payment engine.
Although the primary focus will initially continue to be on servicing the travel sector, Wilson says:
"We are starting to receive enquiries from people [from other industries] who want to do be able to what eNett is already doing for its travel customers."
The competition is relatively small compared to the consumer-facing payment business, Wilson claims, where brands such as PayPal have already established a significant foothold, meaning that a B2B service such as eNett has the chance to gain some further traction not only in travel but elsewhere.
The optimistic outlook came as Travelport released half-yearly results for the six months ending June 2014, with net revenues up 4% year-on-year to $1.123 billion and adjusted EBITDA up 6% to $297 million over the same period.
The company has also launched a debt refinancing plan which will see its current repayment schedule extended to 2019 by way of a credit facility of £100 million and by 2021 for a loan of £2.3 billion.
Travelport has also stated its intention to list on the public markets in New York.
The segment of the business which eNett falls into, known as Beyond Air, now contributes to around a fifth of total revenues (it was 19% for the full year in 2013).
Wilson says that share is expected to shift "significantly higher" in the years ahead (the division has grown by 10% in the first six months of this year), via a combination of creating its own tools and services to target hotels and other sectors and also through further acquisitions (it bought hotel distribution network Hotelzon in June this year for an unconfirmed $10 million and acquired a 49% stake in corporate booking tool Locomote this week).
Looking for opportunities outside of the core air distribution business is not an idea exclusive to Travelport, of course, with Amadeus and Sabre both seeing that shift an important part of their strategy going forward.
But perhaps where Wilson is increasingly vocal (almost pointed) is in Travelport's decision to steer clear of the airline IT business championed by its rivals.
Recent moves by Delta (which took its passenger service system in-house from Travelport in May) and Emirates (which is understood to have considered a number of third party providers but has since decided to operate its own IT) illustrate that carriers are perhaps looking for a more flexible approach, Wilson claims, rather than the existing "vanilla approach".
"Airlines are wanting more control over their hosting," Wilson argues, with the "community model" - where airlines essentially have to request and wait for changes to a multi-customer platform - no longer suiting the requirements of many carriers.
Fighting talk, indeed.
NB:Open door image via Shutterstock.