Travelport brushed off the impact of the loss of major Asia Pacific partner Flight Centre to record better than expected first quarter results.

The UK’s leading GDS and technology provider saw net revenue for the three months rise 4% to $678 million although adjusted EBITDA was down 9% to £154,177.

At the close of trading yesterday Travelport’s shares were up marginally after its performance beat Wall Street expectations. Travelport’s shares had risen sharply earlier in the week after hedge fund investor Elliott Management Corp disclosed a large stake and indicated it could make a bid the buy the firm.

Gordon Wilson, president and chief executive, told Travel Weekly the loss of Flight Centre, worth $85 million in revenue, to rivals Amadeus and Sabre had caused a period of “introspection” at the company.

But he said underlying results for the quarter showed the business as growing well in Asia as well as in Europe, which saw a 21% increase in revenues in Travelport’s Travel Commerce Platform to $244 million.

The firm was also boosted by continued growth of its eNett payments solutions arm despite unfavourable foreign exchange movements, which Wilson said reflected a general shift to virtual payments in travel.

“To be ahead 4% even with the loss of Flight Centre indicates an underlying growth rate of 9%. EBITDA was down but if you strip out Flight Centre we are basically flat. This indicates we are on track to achieve our full year numbers.

“Losing Flight Centre caused a lot of introspection on our part and we looked at what differences we could make to our business and there was a lot, there’s no doubt about that.

“Our agent platform Smartpoint is now on iteration eight which is a way better product and we have changed our account manager and regional manager team in APAC.

“One of the reasons we lost Flight Centre was financial, I would be lying to you if I were to say that was not the case. We obviously got that wrong in terms of our investment. There’s no doubt we had some deficiencies on our side which I’m in no doubt we have fixed.”

Wilson said volumes in APAC were down 16% and revenues down 6%, but if just the figures for Asia were stripped out Travelport was up 25% in volumes on the back of 13% segment growth.

And he said in the win/loss leger for clients Travelport was currently in the positive as it wins new business, particularly among OTAs in Europe and Asia.

“We are onboarding a lot of new business at the moment,” said Wilson. “We needed to address the loss of Flight Centre and our order book is at an all time high so we are implementing new customers which costs more money.”

As a result the first quarter saw Travelport’s operating income a $14 million hit due to increased “selling, general and administrative expenses” due to an increase in workforce expense.

It also saw $40 million increase in “cost of revenue” incurred in its payments solutions division eNett and an increase in travel distribution cost per segment, driven by pricing, mix and unfavourable foreign exchange movements.

Travel agent commissions paid by Travelport were up 16% in the quarter to £315 million, nine percentage points was down to increased payments volumes through eNett and the remainder its GDS business.

ENett revenues increased 81% to $74 million while Travelport’s “Beyond Air” revenue was up 22% to $180 million, 28% of the firm’s total Travel Commerce Platform revenue of $653 million.

Technology Services revenue was down 12% to $25 million largely due to the sale of IGT Solutions Private in April 2017.

Wilson said: “We continue to invest in innovation to drive growth. I the quarter, this investment supported several new business wins, building on the record level of new business that we signed and onboarded in 2017 and, moreover, enabling us to achieve a significant long-term renewal of our partnership with priceline.com.”