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Lindblad buys major stake in adventure/ecotourism company

Sven-Olof Lindblad - acquisition will 'broaden our offerings and our impact in the world's wild places'
Lindblad Expeditions Holdings paid approximately $20m for an 80.1% stake in Natural Habitat, an adventure travel and ecotourism company based in Boulder, Colorado.

The acquisition, Lindblad said, provides a platform for expansion into land-based offerings with a partner that has a strong, trusted and complementary brand and a shared focus on nature and conservation. Lindblad expects to market its ship-based trips to Natural Habitat's customer database while also promoting Natural Habitat's offerings to its own customers, expanding the reach of both businesses.

In 2015, Natural Habitat chalked up $41m in net revenues, EBITDA of approximately $3.7m and net income of about $1.5m.

Lindblad president and ceo Sven-Olof Lindblad has interacted with Natural Habitat and its president, Ben Bressler, for more than a decade, and he said the company offers a 'perfect complement on land to what we do with ships.

'They are a focused, quality-oriented enterprise while, at the same time, understand the imperative for supporting important conservation work in areas visited from both a moral and business objective,' he continued. 'We look forward to a productive partnership to broaden our offerings and our impact in the world's wild places.'

Natural Habitat was previously owned by Gaiam, a leading brand focused on wellness and fitness, and Bressler, Nat Hab's founder. Bressler will retain an ownership interest of 19.9% and continue as president of the new Lindblad subsidiary.

The transaction is expected to be accretive to Lindblad's earnings per share, exclusive of any purchase accounting adjustments.

Natural Habitat focuses on responsible, land-based travel. Adventures include polar bear tours in Churchill, Canada, Alaskan grizzly bear adventures, small-group Galápagos tours and African safaris. The company offers eco-conscious expeditions from Antarctica to Zambia. Since 2003, Nat Hab has partnered with World Wildlife Fund to offer conservation travel, sustainable travel that directly protects nature. As part of the Lindblad deal, WWF extended the end date of its agreement from Dec. 31, 2018, through 2023.

Lindblad financed the acquisition with a combination of cash on hand ($14.85m), Lindblad stock ($2.65m, or 264,208 shares) and a note (approximately $2.5m). Gaiam's 51% ownership interest in Natural Habitat was acquired for cash, while the shares from Bressler were purchased through a combination of cash, Lindblad stock and a note.

Bressler's remaining 19.9% interest is subject to an arrangement providing for put/call rights that generally cannot be exercised, with certain exceptions, until 2020.