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Hotel Shilla closes $121m deal to buy stake in 3Sixty Duty Free

(Courtesy of 3Sixty Duty Free)
(Courtesy of 3Sixty Duty Free)
Hotel Shilla, a South Korean operator of luxury hotels and duty-free shops, has closed a $121 million transaction to buy a 44 percent stake in US duty-free shop operator Travel Retail Group Holdings, known for the in-flight retailing service 3Sixty Duty Free, a filing showed Wednesday.

The deal, closed Tuesday, allowed the hotel and duty-free unit under Samsung to become the second-largest shareholder after 3Sixty Chairman Bernard Klepach. It marks Hotel Shilla’s first investment in a North American entity.

The two parties “will contribute to create a ‘new’ powerful operator in the Americas region and beyond, ready to compete for all future opportunities in the airport and omnichannel businesses,” they said in a joint statement.

Hotel Shilla declined to comment on the deal beyond the statement.

The Florida-based 3Sixty Duty Free is the world’s No. 1 in-flight duty-free shop operator by market share. 3Sixty Duty Free logged a $145,720 net loss for 2018 as it adopted a new tax payment method. The firm recorded an $11.19 million operating profit the same year, similar to the figure for the previous year.

Hotel Shilla and 3Sixty inked the deal in October 2019. Previously, in July 2017, an earlier version of the same deal pricing the 44 percent stake at $104.8 million fell through. Hotel Shilla said in an October statement that the purpose of the acquisition was to gain a global competitive edge in the duty-free business and a foothold in the North American market.

The deal will help Hotel Shilla secure a competitive edge among its peers despite unfavorable circumstances in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, wrote Ahn Ji-hyoung, an analyst at IBK Securities, in a note Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in a March shareholders meeting Hotel Shilla’s chief executive, Samsung scion Lee Boo-jin, pledged to pursue more investment opportunities despite the coronavirus.

“(Hotel Shilla) will diversify business models, target regions, channels and products in duty-free operation and create more chances for mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships in order to go beyond boundaries and leap forward,” Lee said at the meeting.

By Son Ji-hyoung (