SOUTH AFRICA. The Financial Services division of Tourvest has acquired the South African assets of global foreign exchange provider Travelex.

The integrated tourism group owns 75% of the new business, with Travelex retaining the remainder. The deal, which has Competition Commission approval, creates the biggest independent foreign exchange business in South Africa. Travelex has a presence at Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International and other leading airports in the country.

Tourvest Financial Services currently provides foreign exchange services at retail branches in South Africa in a brand licensing agreement under the name American Express Foreign Exchange, but that is due to expire in June this year. The branches trading under that name will be rebranded as Travelex by that deadline.

Travelex is the world’s largest independent foreign exchange business, having acquired Thomas Cook in 2001. It has over 1,200 stores in 27 countries, with airports a key channel.

The Travelex acquisition means Tourvest Financial Services now has 87 foreign exchange services branches in South Africa. Tourvest said it expects to increase its number of annual transactions in the country from approximately 500,000 to about 860,000.

Describing the deal as “advantageous to both companies”, Tourvest Divisional Chief Executive Andrew McDonic confirmed that the process of integrating Travelex’s local operations into Tourvest’s systems is already underway. He said: “Tourvest can still operate under a globally-recognised brand after June and will have access to Travelex’s global network of foreign exchange bureaux.”

McDonic added that Travelex will benefit from an improved BBBEE (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) rating and both parties will enjoy an increased South African branch network, higher transaction volumes and the ability to leverage each other’s areas of expertise.

Travelex Commercial Director, Africa & Global New Markets Michelle Turney said: “We are delighted with the transaction and the partnership with Tourvest, who we are confident will facilitate further development of the Travelex brand in South Africa while supporting our increasing global presence in the foreign exchange market.”

American Express will continue to focus its core payments business in South Africa with Nedbank, as well as offering its travel services in South Africa.