Wirtualna Polska acquires Szallas Group


Wirtualna Polska Holding S.A., the owner of Poland’s highly popular websites and a leading provider of online travel and tourism services in Poland, is acquiring Portfolion Capital Partner’s investment, Szallas Group. Szallas operates the largest domestic travel portals in CEE enabling visitors to book accommodation in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Croatia. Accordingly, Wirtualna Polska will build a group that will be a leading domestic travel booking services provider in Central and Eastern Europe. The deal is valued at EUR 72 million, plus the company’s net cash, which is estimated around EUR 10 million as at the transaction closing date, making a total value of EUR 82 million for the acquisition.

Szallas Group was established in 2007 in Hungary and its accommodation booking site is currently the brand of first choice for local travelers. Since 2016, based on the management’s and PortfoLion’s joint strategy to make Szallas.hu a CEE champion, the company has been expanding its operations to cover other Central and Eastern European countries. Through subsequent acquisitions and organic growth, Szallas Group has been providing accommodation booking services to customers in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Croatia with 4 major brands (szallas.hu, noclegi.pl, hotel.cz, travelminit.ro,). The Group also operates websites that offer spa packages (spa.cz), hotel discount coupons (maiutazas.hu), tour operator activity, tourist attractions vouchers and B2B services. In the 5 markets covered by its operations, the Group offers accommodation in a total of 87,000 facilities. During the last twelve months ended in June 2022, over one million bookings with 200 mEUR total transaction value were made through the Group’s websites. In this period, Szallas Group generated EBITDA of EUR 6.6 million.

"The acquisition of Szallas Group is our first foreign investment and a groundbreaking moment in the history of Wirtualna Polska Holding. Following the merger with our own Nocowanie.pl, the largest group will be created of local companies operating on the domestic accommodation markets of Central and Eastern Europe, offering over 100,000 accommodation options. We are extremely impressed with the competences of József and his team, as they have demonstrated how to run a successful business in competition against global platforms on the local market. We also believe in the potential behind the travel industry as a whole. This has been confirmed by the financial performance of Nocowanie.pl, which posted record-breaking revenues in its history in Q2 2022" says Jacek Świderski, CEO of Wirtualna Polska Holding S.A.

Wirtualna Polska is purchasing shares from PortfoLion Capital Partners, a Hungarian private equity and venture capital firm, member of OTP Group, a leading banking group of the region and from the product founders and individual persons of Pavel Kotas, Ferenc Rigó, László Buzogány, Tomáš Pětivoký, Milan Petr.

"Since we started our journey with Szallas Group in 2015, we have been able to build a strong international player and a company growing both organically and by acquisitions in multiple countries. We are proud to be part of the whole Szallas story and of shaping its strategy via seamless collaboration of multiple founder and management teams which is truly unique and belongs to Szallas' core values" says Tibor Győrbiró, Partner at PortfoLion.

Szallas Group has been able to compete successfully against major global players, even when the sector was deeply stricken by the COVID pandemic. The combination of the cutting-edge regional technical solutions and the local customer service and marketing teams ensured the agility needed in such a hectic market environment. Dedication and focus on the local and regional CEE travel market resulted in successes even under such trying circumstances.

"We’ll go on the CEE growth track we’ve established with PortfoLion with further acquisitions and organic growth in the region. Our management firmly believes that becoming a member of such a large and rapidly growing group as Wirtualna Polska Holding opens up new opportunities for our dedicated team of 350, especially in case of our Polish portfolio" says József Szigetvári, CEO of Szallas Group.

Following the closing of the transaction, Nocowanie.pl, currently owned by Wirtualna Polska will become a part of Szallas Group, while its CEO, Tomasz Machała, will become a member of the Szallas Group’s Management Board.

"For several months now, we have been pursuing one key strategic objective at Nocowanie.pl, namely the transformation of our current advertisement-based business model into a complete booking solution. The combination of Nocowanie.pl and Noclegi.pl in Poland with the knowhow and transaction technology developed by the Szallas Group will enable us to attain this objective faster, thereby meeting the expectations of tourists" says Tomasz Machała, CEO of Nocowanie.pl sp. z o.o.

The merger will enable Nocowanie.pl to more than triple its total addressable market and offer its customers, in cooperation with Szallas Group, over 100,000 accommodation properties.