SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
☒ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019
☐ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction
of incorporation or organization)
|(Commission File Number)|
3150 Sabre Drive
Southlake, TX 76092
|(Address, including zip code, of principal executive offices)|
|(Registrant's telephone number, including area code)|
|Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:|
|Common Stock, $0.01 par value||SABR||The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC|
|(Title of class)||(Trading symbol)||(Name of exchange on which registered)|
|Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:|
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” "smaller reporting company,” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer||☒|| ||Accelerated filer||☐|
|Non-accelerated filer||☐||Smaller reporting company||☐|
|Emerging growth company||☐|
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
The aggregate market value of the registrant’s common stock held by non-affiliates, as of June 28, 2019, was $6,064,679,095. As of February 21, 2020, there were 273,750,471 shares of the registrant’s common stock outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement relating to its 2020 annual meeting of stockholders to be held on April 29, 2020, are incorporated by reference in Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Table of Contents
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the section “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in Part II, Item 7, contains information that may constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements relate to expectations, beliefs, projections, future plans and strategies, anticipated events or trends and similar expressions concerning matters that are not historical facts, such as statements regarding our future financial condition or results of operations, our prospects and strategies for future growth, the development and introduction of new products, and the implementation of our strategies. In many cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “expects,” "believes," "will," "intends," "outlook," "provisional," “may,” “predicts,” “potential,” “anticipates,” “estimates,” "should,” “plans” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. The forward-looking statements are based on our current expectations and assumptions regarding our business, the economy and other future conditions and are subject to risks, uncertainties and changes in circumstances that may cause events or our actual activities or results to differ significantly from those expressed in any forward-looking statement. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future events, results, actions, levels of activity, performance or achievements. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Unless required by law, we undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect circumstances or events after the date they are made. A number of important factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, those factors described in Part I, Item 1A, “Risk Factors,” in Part I, Item 7 “Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Factors Affecting Our Results” and elsewhere in this Annual Report.
In this Annual Report on Form 10-K, references to “Sabre,” the “Company,” “we,” “our,” “ours” and “us” refer to Sabre Corporation and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise stated or the context otherwise requires.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Sabre Corporation is a Delaware corporation formed in December 2006. On March 30, 2007, Sabre Corporation acquired Sabre Holdings Corporation (“Sabre Holdings”), which is the sole subsidiary of Sabre Corporation. Sabre GLBL Inc. (“Sabre GLBL”) is the principal operating subsidiary and sole direct subsidiary of Sabre Holdings. Sabre GLBL or its direct or indirect subsidiaries conduct all of our businesses. Our principal executive offices are located at 3150 Sabre Drive, Southlake, Texas 76092.
At Sabre, we make travel happen. We are a software and technology company that powers the global travel industry. We partner with airlines, hoteliers, agencies and other travel partners to retail, distribute and fulfill travel. We connect the world’s leading travel suppliers, including airlines, hotels, car rental brands, rail carriers, cruise lines and tour operators, with travel buyers in a comprehensive travel marketplace. We also offer travel suppliers an extensive suite of leading software solutions, ranging from airline and hotel reservations systems to high-value marketing and operations solutions, such as planning airline crew schedules, re-accommodating passengers during irregular flight operations and managing day-to-day hotel operations. We are committed to helping customers operate more efficiently, drive revenue and offer personalized traveler experiences with next-generation technology solutions.
We operate our business and present our results through three business segments: (i) Travel Network, our global travel marketplace for travel suppliers and travel buyers, (ii) Airline Solutions, a broad portfolio of software technology products and solutions primarily for airlines, and (iii) Hospitality Solutions, an extensive suite of leading software solutions for hoteliers. Financial information about our business segments and geographic areas is provided in Note 17. Segment Information, to our consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
In July 2018, we announced the creation of the Travel Solutions organization, which consists of Travel Network and Airline Solutions. This structure reinforces our focus on the next generation of retailing, distribution and fulfillment. Sabre’s reportable segments continue to be Travel Network, Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions.
Travel Network is our global business-to-business travel marketplace and consists primarily of our global distribution system (“GDS”) and a broad set of solutions that integrate with our GDS to add value for travel suppliers and travel buyers. Our GDS facilitates travel by efficiently bringing together travel content such as inventory, prices and availability from a broad array of travel suppliers, including airlines, hotels, car rental brands, rail carriers, cruise lines and tour operators, with a large network of travel buyers, including online travel agencies (“OTAs”), offline travel agencies, travel management companies (“TMCs”), and corporate travel departments.
Our Airline Solutions business offers a broad portfolio of software technology products and solutions, through software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) and hosted delivery model, to airlines and other travel suppliers and provides industry-leading and comprehensive software solutions that help our airline customers better market, sell, serve and operate. We offer airline software solutions in four functional platforms: the Sabre Commercial Platform; the Sabre AirCentre Operations Platform; the Intelligence Exchange Data & Analytics Platform; and the Radixx Platform. The Sabre Commercial Platform brings together intelligent decision support solutions from our AirVision commercial planning suite with the SabreSonic passenger service system, enabling end-to-end retailing, distribution and fulfillment. The Sabre AirCentre Operations Platform is a set of strategic solutions that drive operational effectiveness through holistic planning and management of airline, airport and customer operations. The Intelligence Exchange Data & Analytics Platform is a Platform-as-a-Service ("PaaS") solution that helps our customers to make recommended decisions across commercial and operations. The Radixx Platform is focused on the low-cost carrier ("LCC") market, offering retailing solutions for sales and customer service. Additionally, Airlines Solutions offers services to our customers to enable them to better use our products and help optimize their commercial and operations platforms.
Our Hospitality Solutions business provides software and solutions, through SaaS and hosted delivery models, to hoteliers around the world. Our SaaS solutions empower hotels and hotel chains to manage pricing, reservations, and retail offerings across thousands of distribution channels while improving guest experience throughout the traveler journey. We serve over 42,000 properties in 174 countries.
We connect people and places with technology that reimagines the business of travel. The key elements of our strategy include:
•Developing innovative technology products through investment of significant resources in solutions that address key customer needs in the areas of retailing, distribution, and fulfillment of travel and related products, such as reservations systems, retailing and merchandising solutions, planning and optimization solutions, mobile capabilities, data analytics, and business intelligence solutions.
•Pursuing new supplier customers seeking distribution of content and agencies, as well as corporations representing buyers of content in our marketplace in Travel Network. In addition, we continue to pursue new customers for our Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses.
•Transforming the security, stability, and health of our technology, with the goal of connecting people to experiences that enrich their lives.
•Strengthening relationships with existing customers, including promoting the adoption of our products within and across our existing customers, to help enable them to operate more efficiently, drive revenue, and offer personalized traveler experiences with next-generation technology solutions.
Travel Network customers consist of travel suppliers, including airlines, hotels and other lodging providers, car rental brands, rail carriers, cruise lines, tour operators, attractions and services; a large network of travel buyers, including OTAs, offline travel agencies, TMCs and corporate travel departments. Airline Solutions serves airlines of all sizes and in every region of the world, including hybrid carriers and LCCs (collectively, “LCC/hybrids”), global network carriers and regional network carriers; and other customers such as airports, corporate aviation fleets, governments and tourism boards. Hospitality Solutions has a global customer base of over 42,000 hotel properties of all sizes.
No individual customer accounted for more than 10% of our consolidated revenues for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2018 and 2017.
Sources of Revenue
Transactions—Bookings that generate fees directly to Travel Network (“Direct Billable Booking”) include bookings made through our GDS (e.g., air, car and hotel bookings) and through our joint venture partners in cases where we are paid directly by the travel supplier. A transaction occurs when a travel agency or corporate travel department books or reserves a travel supplier’s product on our GDS, for which we receive a fee. Transaction fees include, but are not limited to, transaction fees paid by travel suppliers for selling their inventory through our GDS and fees paid by travel agency subscribers related to their use of certain solutions integrated with our GDS. We receive revenue from the travel supplier and the travel agency according to the commercial arrangement with each.
SaaS and Hosted—Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions generate revenue through upfront solution fees and recurring usage-based fees for the use of our software solutions hosted on secure platforms or deployed via SaaS. We maintain our SaaS and hosted software and manage the related infrastructure with the assistance of third-party providers. We collect the implementation fees and recurring usage-based fees pursuant to contracts with terms that typically range between three and ten years and generally include minimum annual volume requirements.
Software Licensing—Airline Solutions generates revenue from fees for the installation and use of our software products. Some contracts under this model generate additional revenue for the maintenance of the software product.
Professional Service Fees—Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions offerings that utilize the SaaS and hosted revenue model are sometimes sold as part of multiple-element agreements for which we also provide professional services, including consulting services. Our professional services are primarily focused on helping customers achieve better utilization of and return on their software investment. Often, we provide these services during the implementation phase of our SaaS solutions.
Media—Travel Network generates media revenue from customers that advertise products and purchase preferred placement on our GDS. Advertisers use two types of advertising metrics: (i) display advertising and (ii) action advertising. In display advertising, advertisers generally pay based on the number of customers who view the advertisement, and are charged based on cost-per-thousand impressions. In action advertising, advertisers generally pay based on the number of customers who perform a specific action, such as click on the advertisement, and are charged based on the cost per action. Customers can also purchase preferred placement on hotel shopping displays on travel agency terminals. Customers pay for preferential payment through a subscription fee which is based on the amount of revenue the customer generates through our GDS and geographical market of the customer’s property (designated by airport code).
We operate in highly competitive markets. Travel Network competes with several other regional and global travel marketplace providers, including other GDSs, local distribution systems and travel marketplace providers primarily owned by airlines or government entities, as well as with direct distribution by travel suppliers. In addition to other GDSs and direct distributors, there are a number of other competitors in the travel distribution marketplace, including new entrants in the travel space, that offer metasearch capabilities that direct shoppers to supplier websites and/or OTAs, third party aggregators and peer-to-peer options for travel services. Airline Solutions competes with a variety of providers in a rapidly evolving marketplace which includes global and regional IT providers, various specialists in selected product areas, service providers and airlines that develop their own in-house technology. Hospitality Solutions operates in a dynamic marketplace that includes large global players, significant new entrants and hotels that develop their own in-house technology.
Technology and Operations
Our technology strategy is based on achieving company-wide stability, reliability and performance at the most efficient price point. Significant investment has gone into building a centralized PaaS middleware environment with an emphasis on standardization, simplicity, security and scalability. We invest heavily in software development, delivery and operational support capabilities and strive to provide best in class products for our customers. We operate standardized infrastructure in our data center environments across hardware, operating systems, databases, and other key enabling technologies to minimize costs on non-differentiators. We expect to continue to make significant investments in our information technology infrastructure to modernize our architecture, drive efficiency in development and recurring technology costs, further enhance the stability and security of our network, comply with data privacy regulations, and enable our shift to open source and cloud-based solutions.
Our architecture has evolved from a mainframe centric transaction processing environment to a secure processing platform that is one of the world’s most heavily used and resilient service-oriented architecture (“SOA”) environments. A variety of products and services run on this technology infrastructure: high volume air shopping systems; desktop access applications providing continuous, real-time data access to travel agents; airline operations and decision support systems; an array of customized applications available through the Sabre Red 360; and web based services that provide an automated interface between us and our travel suppliers and customers. The flexibility and scale of our standardized SOA based technology infrastructure allow us to quickly deliver a broad variety of SaaS and hosted solutions.
We use software, business processes and proprietary information to carry out our business. These assets and related intellectual property rights are significant assets of our business. We rely on a combination of patent, copyright, trade secret and trademark laws, confidentiality procedures, and contractual provisions to protect these assets and we license software and other intellectual property both to and from third parties. We may seek patent protection on technology, software and business processes relating to our business, and our software and related documentation may also be protected under trade secret and copyright laws where applicable. We may also benefit from both statutory and common law protection of our trademarks.
Although we rely heavily on our brands, associated trademarks, and domain names, we do not believe that our business is dependent on any single item of intellectual property, or that any single item of intellectual property is material to the operation of our business. However, since we consider trademarks to be a valuable asset of our business, we maintain our trademark portfolio throughout the world by filing trademark applications with the relevant trademark offices, renewing appropriate registrations and regularly monitoring potential infringement of our trademarks in certain key markets.
We are subject to or affected by international, federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies, which are constantly subject to change. These laws, regulations and policies include regulations applicable to the GDS in the European Union (“EU”), Canada, the United States and other locations.
We are subject to the application of data protection and privacy regulations in many of the countries in which we operate, including the General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") in the EU and the California Consumer Protection Act ("CCPA"). See "Risk Factors —Our collection, processing, storage, use and transmission of personal data could give rise to liabilities as a result of governmental regulation, conflicting legal requirements, differing views on data privacy or security breaches."
We are also subject to prohibitions administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (the “OFAC rules”), which prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in financial transactions with or relating to the prohibited individual, entity or country, require the blocking of assets in which the individual, entity or country has an interest, and prohibit transfers of property subject to U.S. jurisdiction (including property in the possession or control of U.S. persons) to such individual, entity or country.
Our businesses may also be subject to legislation and regulations affecting issues such as: trade sanctions, exports of technology, antitrust, anticorruption, telecommunications and e-commerce. These regulations may vary among jurisdictions.
See “Risk Factors—Any failure to comply with regulations or any changes in such regulations governing our businesses could adversely affect us.”
The travel industry is seasonal in nature. Travel bookings for Travel Network, and the revenue we derive from those bookings, are typically seasonally strong in the first and third quarters, but decline significantly each year in the fourth quarter, primarily in December. We recognize air-related revenue at the date of booking, and because customers generally book their November and December holiday leisure-related travel earlier in the year and business-related travel declines during the holiday season, revenue resulting from bookings is typically lower in the fourth quarter.
As of December 31, 2019, we employed approximately 9,250 people. We have not experienced any work stoppages and consider our relations with our employees to be good.
We are subject to the informational requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), and under these requirements, we file reports, proxy and information statements and other information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and other information to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act are available through the investor relations section of our website at investors.sabre.com. Reports are available free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file them with, or furnish them to, the SEC. The information contained on our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
The following risk factors may be important to understanding any statement in this Annual Report on Form 10-K or elsewhere. Our business, financial condition and operating results can be affected by a number of factors, whether currently known or unknown, including but not limited to those described below. Any one or more of these factors could directly or indirectly cause our actual results of operations and financial condition to vary materially from past or anticipated future results of operations and financial condition. Any of these factors, in whole or in part, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and stock price.
Our revenue is highly dependent on transaction volumes in the global travel industry, particularly air travel transaction volumes.
Our Travel Network, Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions revenue is largely tied to travel suppliers’ transaction volumes rather than to their unit pricing for an airplane ticket, hotel room or other travel products. This revenue is generally not contractually committed to recur annually under our agreements with our travel suppliers. As a result, our revenue is highly
dependent on the global travel industry, particularly air travel from which we derive a substantial amount of our revenue, and directly correlates with global travel, tourism and transportation transaction volumes. Our revenue is therefore highly susceptible to declines in or disruptions to leisure and business travel that may be caused by factors entirely out of our control, and therefore may not recur if these declines or disruptions occur.
Various factors may cause temporary or sustained disruption to leisure and business travel. The impact these disruptions would have on our business depends on the magnitude and duration of such disruption. These factors include, among others:
•general and local economic conditions;
•financial instability of travel suppliers and the impact of any fundamental corporate changes to such travel suppliers, such as airline bankruptcies, consolidations, or suspensions of service on the cost and availability of travel content;
•factors that affect demand for travel such as outbreaks of contagious diseases, including influenza, the coronavirus, Zika, Ebola and the MERS virus, increases in fuel prices, government shutdowns, changing attitudes towards the environmental costs of travel and safety concerns;
•political events like acts or threats of terrorism, hostilities, and war;
•inclement weather, natural or man-made disasters; and
•factors that affect supply of travel, such as travel restrictions, regulatory actions, aircraft groundings, or changes to regulations governing airlines and the travel industry, like government sanctions that do or would prohibit doing business with certain state-owned travel suppliers, work stoppages or labor unrest at any of the major airlines, hotels or airports.
Our success depends on maintaining the integrity of our systems and infrastructure, which may suffer from failures, capacity constraints, business interruptions and forces outside of our control.
We may be unable to maintain and improve the efficiency, reliability and integrity of our systems. Unexpected increases in the volume of our business could exceed system capacity, resulting in service interruptions, outages and delays. These constraints can also lead to the deterioration of our services or impair our ability to process transactions. We occasionally experience system interruptions that make certain of our systems unavailable including, but not limited to, our GDS and the services that our Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses provide to airlines and hotels. In addition, we may occasionally experience system interruptions as we execute our technology strategy, including our cloud migration and mainframe offload activities. System interruptions may prevent us from efficiently providing services to customers or other third parties, which could cause damage to our reputation and result in our losing customers and revenues or cause us to incur litigation and liabilities. Although we have contractually limited our liability for damages caused by outages of our GDS (other than damages caused by our gross negligence or willful misconduct), we cannot guarantee that we will not be subject to lawsuits or other claims for compensation from our customers in connection with such outages for which we may not be indemnified or compensated.
Our systems may also be susceptible to external damage or disruption. Much of the computer and communications hardware upon which we depend is located across multiple data center facilities in a single geographic region. Our systems could be damaged or disrupted by power, hardware, software or telecommunication failures, human errors, natural events including floods, hurricanes, fires, winter storms, earthquakes and tornadoes, terrorism, break-ins, hostilities, war or similar events. Computer viruses, malware, denial of service attacks, attacks on hardware vulnerabilities, physical or electronic break-ins, cybersecurity incidents or other security breaches, and similar disruptions affecting the Internet, telecommunication services or our systems could cause service interruptions or the loss of critical data and could prevent us from providing timely services. See “—Security breaches could expose us to liability and damage our reputation and our business.” Failure to efficiently provide services to customers or other third parties could cause damage to our reputation and result in the loss of customers and revenues, asset impairments, significant recovery costs or litigation and liabilities. Moreover, such risks are likely to increase as we expand our business and as the tools and techniques involved become more sophisticated.
Although we have implemented measures intended to protect certain systems and critical data and provide comprehensive disaster recovery and contingency plans for certain customers that purchase this additional protection, these protections and plans are not in place for all systems. Furthermore, several of our existing critical backup systems are located in the same metropolitan area as our primary systems and we may not have sufficient disaster recovery tools or resources available, depending on the type or size of the disruption. Disasters affecting our facilities, systems or personnel might be expensive to remedy and could significantly diminish our reputation and our brands, and we may not have adequate insurance to cover such costs.
Customers and other end-users who rely on our software products and services, including our SaaS and hosted offerings, for applications that are integral to their businesses may have a greater sensitivity to product errors and security vulnerabilities than customers for software products generally. Additionally, security breaches that affect third parties upon which we rely, such as travel suppliers, may further expose us to negative publicity, possible liability or regulatory penalties. Events outside our control could cause interruptions in our IT systems, which could have a material adverse effect on our business operations and harm our reputation.
Any inability or failure to adapt to technological developments or the evolving competitive landscape could harm our business operations and competitiveness.
We depend upon the use of sophisticated information technology and systems. Our competitiveness and future results depend on our ability to maintain and make timely and cost-effective enhancements, upgrades and additions to our products, services, technologies and systems in response to new technological developments, industry standards and trends and customer requirements. For example, IATA has promulgated its new distribution capability (“NDC”) standard. Depending on the level of adoption of this standard, our failure to integrate NDC into our technology or anticipate the evolution of next generation retailing and distribution could adversely affect our financial performance. As another example, migration of our enterprise applications and platforms to other hosting environments would cause us to incur substantial costs, and could result in instability and business interruptions, which could materially harm our business.
Adapting to new technological and marketplace developments, such as NDC, may require substantial expenditures and lead time and we cannot guarantee that projected future increases in business volume will actually materialize. We may experience difficulties that could delay or prevent the successful development, marketing and implementation of enhancements, upgrades and additions. Moreover, we may fail to maintain, upgrade or introduce new products, services, technologies and systems as quickly as our competitors or in a cost-effective manner. For example, we must constantly update our GDS with new capabilities to adapt to the changing technological environment and customer needs. However, this process can be costly and time-consuming, and our efforts may not be successful as compared to our competitors in the travel distribution market. Those that we do develop may not achieve acceptance in the marketplace sufficient to generate material revenue or may be rendered obsolete or non-competitive by our competitors’ offerings.
In addition, our competitors are constantly evolving, including increasing their product and service offerings through organic research and development or through strategic acquisitions. For example, one of our competitors, Travelport Worldwide Limited, was acquired by private-equity firms in 2019. There could be uncertainty resulting from this acquisition, including possible changes to Travelport’s product and service offerings. As a result, we must continue to invest significant resources in research and development in order to continually improve the speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness of our services and we may be required to make changes to our technology platforms or increase our investment in technology, increase marketing, adjust prices or business models and take other actions, which could affect our financial performance and liquidity.
Travel suppliers’ use of alternative distribution models, such as direct distribution models, could adversely affect our Travel Network business.
Some travel suppliers that provide content to Travel Network, including some of Travel Network’s largest airline customers, have sought to increase usage of direct distribution channels. For example, these travel suppliers are trying to move more consumer traffic to their proprietary websites, and some travel suppliers have explored direct connect initiatives linking their internal reservations systems directly with travel agencies or TMCs, thereby bypassing the GDSs. This direct distribution trend enables them to apply pricing pressure on intermediaries and negotiate travel distribution arrangements that are less favorable to intermediaries. With travel suppliers’ adoption of certain technology solutions over the last decade, including those offered by our Airline Solutions business, air travel suppliers have increased the proportion of direct bookings relative to indirect bookings. In the future, airlines may increase their use of direct distribution, which may cause a material decrease in their use of our GDS. Travel suppliers may also offer travelers advantages through their websites such as special fares and bonus miles, which could make their offerings more attractive than those available through our GDS platform. Similarly, travel suppliers may also seek to encourage travelers’ and travel agencies’ usage of their proprietary booking platforms by selectively increasing the ticket price in our GDS, making our GDS platform’s offerings more expensive than some alternative offerings. For example, we are currently engaged in litigation with the Lufthansa Group in connection with, among other things, a surcharge that the Lufthansa Group has imposed on tickets purchased through three selected GDSs, including Sabre. The Lufthansa Group is seeking declaratory judgment that this surcharge does not violate the terms of its agreement with us, in addition to damages related to the allegations of breach of contract and tortious interference with agency contracts. We deny the allegations and we have filed a counterclaim that asserts the Lufthansa Group’s surcharge is a violation of its agreement and that seeks an order requiring the Lufthansa Group to specifically perform its obligations under the agreement.
In addition, with respect to ancillary products, travel suppliers may choose not to comply with the technical standards that would allow ancillary products to be immediately distributed via intermediaries, thus resulting in a delay before these products become available through our GDS relative to availability through direct distribution. In addition, if enough travel suppliers choose not to develop ancillary products in a standardized way with respect to technical standards our investment in adapting our various systems to enable the sale of ancillary products may not be successful.
Companies with close relationships with end consumers, like Facebook, as well as new entrants introducing new paradigms into the travel industry, such as metasearch engines, like Google, may promote alternative distribution channels to our GDS by diverting consumer traffic away from intermediaries, which may adversely affect our GDS business.
Additionally, technological advancements may allow airlines and hotels to facilitate broader connectivity to and integration with large travel buyers, such that certain airline and hotel offerings could be made available directly to such travel buyers without the involvement of intermediaries such as Travel Network and its competitors.
We rely on the availability and performance of information technology services provided by third parties, including DXC, which manages a significant portion of our systems.
Our businesses are largely dependent on the computer data centers and network systems operated for us by DXC Technology ("DXC"), and its third-party providers, including AT&T, to which DXC outsources certain network services. We also rely on other developers and service providers to maintain and support our global telecommunications infrastructure, including to connect our computer data center and call centers to end-users. Moreover, we outsourced our global enterprise resource planning system to a third-party provider, and any disruption to that outsourced system may negatively impact our business.
Our success is dependent on our ability to maintain effective relationships with these third-party technology and service providers. Some of our agreements with third-party technology and service providers are terminable for cause on short notice and often provide limited recourse for service interruptions. For example, our agreement with DXC provides us with limited indemnification rights. We could face significant additional cost or business disruption if:
•Any of these providers fail to enable us to provide our customers and suppliers with reliable, real-time access to our systems. For example, in 2013, we experienced a significant outage of the Sabre platform due to a failure on the part of one of our service providers. This outage, which affected both our Travel Network business and our Airline Solutions business, lasted several hours and caused significant problems for our customers. Any such future outages could cause damage to our reputation, customer loss and require us to pay compensation to affected customers for which we may not be indemnified or compensated.
•Our arrangements with such providers are terminated or impaired and we cannot find alternative sources of technology or systems support on commercially reasonable terms or on a timely basis. For example, our substantial dependence on DXC for many of our systems makes it difficult for us to switch vendors and makes us more sensitive to changes in DXC's pricing for its services.
Our Travel Network business is exposed to pricing pressure from travel suppliers.
Travel suppliers continue to look for ways to decrease their costs and to increase their control over distribution. For example, consolidation in the airline industry, the growth of LCC/hybrids and macroeconomic factors, among other things, have driven some airlines to negotiate for lower fees during contract renegotiations, thereby exerting increased pricing pressure on our Travel Network business, which, in turn, negatively affects our revenues and margins. In addition, travel suppliers’ use of alternative distribution channels, such as direct distribution through supplier-operated websites, may also adversely affect our contract renegotiations with these suppliers and negatively impact our transaction fee revenue. For example, as we attempt to renegotiate new agreements with our travel suppliers, they may withhold some or all of their content (fares and associated economic terms) for distribution exclusively through their direct distribution channels (for example, the relevant airline’s website) or offer travelers more attractive terms for content available through those direct channels after their contracts expire. As a result of these sources of negotiating pressure, we may have to decrease our prices to retain their business. If we are unable to renew our contracts with these travel suppliers on similar economic terms or at all, or if our ability to provide this content is similarly impeded, this would also adversely affect the value of our Travel Network business as a marketplace due to our more limited content. See “—Travel suppliers’ use of alternative distribution models, such as direct distribution models, could adversely affect our Travel Network business.”
Security breaches could expose us to liability and damage our reputation and our business.
We process, store, and transmit large amounts of data, including personally identifiable information ("PII") and payment card industry data ("PCI") of our customers, and it is critical to our business strategy that our facilities and infrastructure, including those provided by DXC or other vendors, remain secure and are perceived by the marketplace to be secure. Our infrastructure may be vulnerable to physical or electronic break-ins, computer viruses, or similar disruptive problems.
In addition, we, like most technology companies, are the target of cybercriminals who attempt to compromise our systems. We are subject to and experience threats and intrusions that have to be identified and remediated to protect sensitive information along with our intellectual property and our overall business. To address these threats and intrusions, we have a team of experienced security experts and support from firms that specialize in data security and cybersecurity. We are periodically subject to these threats and intrusions, and sensitive or material information could be compromised as a result. The costs of any investigation of such incidents, as well as any remediation related to these incidents, may be material. As previously disclosed, we became aware of an incident involving unauthorized access to payment information contained in a subset of hotel reservations processed through the Sabre Hospitality Solutions SynXis Central Reservation system (the “HS Central Reservation System”). Our investigation was supported by third party experts, including a leading cybersecurity firm. Our investigation determined that an unauthorized party: obtained access to account credentials that permitted access to a subset of hotel reservations processed through the HS Central Reservation System; used the account credentials to view a credit card summary page on the HS Central Reservation System and access payment card information (although we use encryption, this credential had the right to see unencrypted card data); and first obtained access to payment card information and some other reservation information on August 10, 2016. The last access to payment card information was on March 9, 2017. The unauthorized party was able to access information for certain hotel reservations, including cardholder name; payment card number; card expiration date; and, for a subset of reservations, card security code. The unauthorized party was also able, in some cases, to access certain information such as guest name(s), email, phone number, address, and other information if provided to the HS Central Reservation System. Information such as Social Security, passport, or driver’s license number was not accessed. The investigation did not uncover forensic evidence that the unauthorized party removed any information from the system, but it is a
possibility. We took successful measures to ensure this unauthorized access to the HS Central Reservation System was stopped and is no longer possible. There is no indication that any of our systems beyond the HS Central Reservation System, such as Sabre’s Airline Solutions and Travel Network platforms, were affected or accessed by the unauthorized party. We notified law enforcement and the payment card brands and engaged a PCI forensic investigator at the payment card brands' request to investigate this incident. We have notified customers and other companies that use or interact with, directly or indirectly, the HS Central Reservation System about the incident. We are also cooperating with various governmental authorities that are investigating this incident. Separately, in November 2017, Sabre Hospitality Solutions observed a pattern of activity that, after further investigation, led it to believe that an unauthorized party improperly obtained access to certain hotel user credentials for purposes of accessing the HS Central Reservation System. We deactivated the compromised accounts and notified law enforcement of this activity. We also notified the payment card brands, and at their request, we have engaged a PCI forensic investigator to investigate this incident. We have not found any evidence of a breach of the network security of the HS Central Reservation System, and we believe that the number of affected reservations represents only a fraction of 1% of the bookings in the HS Central Reservation System. The costs related to these incidents, including any associated penalties assessed by any governmental authority or payment card brand or indemnification obligations to our customers, as well as any other impacts or remediation related to them, may be material. As noted below, we maintain insurance that covers certain aspects of cyber risks, and we continue to work with our insurance carriers in these matters.
Any computer viruses, malware, denial of service attacks, attacks on hardware vulnerabilities, physical or electronic break-ins, cybersecurity incidents, such as the items described above, or other security breach or compromise of the information handled by us or our service providers may jeopardize the security or integrity of information in our computer systems and networks or those of our customers and cause significant interruptions in our and our customers’ operations.
Any systems and processes that we have developed that are designed to protect customer information and prevent data loss and other security breaches cannot provide absolute security. In addition, we may not successfully implement remediation plans to address all potential exposures. It is possible that we may have to expend additional financial and other resources to address these problems. Failure to prevent or mitigate data loss or other security breaches could expose us or our customers to a risk of loss or misuse of such information, cause customers to lose confidence in our data protection measures, damage our reputation, adversely affect our operating results or result in litigation or potential liability for us. While we maintain insurance coverage that may, subject to policy terms and conditions, cover certain aspects of cyber risks, this insurance coverage is subject to a retention amount and may not be applicable to a particular incident or otherwise may be insufficient to cover all our losses beyond any retention. Similarly, we expect to continue to make significant investments in our information technology infrastructure. The implementation of these investments may be more costly or take longer than we anticipate, or could otherwise adversely affect our business operations, which could negatively impact our financial position, results of operations or cash flows.
Implementation of software solutions often involves a significant commitment of resources, and any failure to deliver as promised on a significant implementation could adversely affect our business.
In our Travel Network, Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses, the implementation of software solutions often involves a significant commitment of resources and is subject to a number of significant risks over which we may or may not have control. These risks include:
•the features of the implemented software may not meet the expectations or fit the business model of the customer;
•our limited pool of trained experts for implementations cannot quickly and easily be augmented for complex implementation projects, such that resources issues, if not planned and managed effectively, could lead to costly project delays;
•customer-specific factors, such as the stability, functionality, interconnection and scalability of the customer’s pre-existing information technology infrastructure, as well as financial or other circumstances could destabilize, delay or prevent the completion of the implementation process, which, for airline reservations systems, typically takes 12 to 18 months; and
•customers and their partners may not fully or timely perform the actions required to be performed by them to ensure successful implementation, including measures we recommend to safeguard against technical and business risks.
As a result of these and other risks, some of our customers may incur large, unplanned costs in connection with the purchase and installation of our software products. Also, implementation projects could take longer than planned or fail. We may not be able to reduce or eliminate protracted installation or significant additional costs. Significant delays or unsuccessful customer implementation projects could result in cancellation or renegotiation of existing agreements, claims from customers, harm our reputation and negatively impact our operating results.
The travel distribution market is highly competitive, and we are subject to competition from other GDS providers, direct distribution by travel suppliers and new entrants or technologies that may challenge the GDS business model.
The evolution of the global travel and tourism industry, the introduction of new technologies and standards and the expansion of existing technologies in key markets, among other factors, could contribute to an intensification of competition in the business areas and regions in which we operate. Increased competition could require us to increase spending on marketing activities or product development, to decrease our booking or transaction fees and other charges (or defer planned increases in such fees and charges), to increase incentive consideration or take other actions that could harm our business. A GDS has two broad categories of customers: (i) travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, car rental brands, rail carriers, cruise lines and tour operators, and (ii) travel buyers, such as online and offline travel agencies, TMCs and corporate travel departments. The competitive positioning of a GDS depends on the success it achieves with both customer categories. Other factors that may affect the competitive success of a GDS include the comprehensiveness, timeliness and accuracy of the travel content offered, the reliability, ease of use and innovativeness of the technology, the perceived value proposition of our GDS by travel suppliers and travel buyers, the incentive consideration provided to travel agencies, the transaction fees charged to travel suppliers and the range of products and services available to travel suppliers and travel buyers. Our GDS competitors could seek to capture market share by offering more differentiated content, products or services, increasing the incentive consideration to travel agencies, or decreasing the transaction fees charged to travel suppliers, which would harm our business to the extent they gain market share from us or force us to respond by lowering our prices or increasing the incentive consideration we provide.
We cannot guarantee that we will be able to compete successfully against our current and future competitors in the travel distribution market, some of which may achieve greater brand recognition than us, have greater financial, marketing, personnel and other resources or be able to secure services and products from travel suppliers on more favorable terms. If we fail to overcome these competitive pressures, we may lose market share and our business may otherwise be negatively affected.
Our ability to maintain and grow our Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses may be negatively affected by competition from other third-party solutions providers and new participants that seek to enter the solutions market.
Our Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses principally face competition from existing third-party solutions providers. We also compete with various point solutions providers on a more limited basis in several discrete functional areas. For our Hospitality Solutions business, we face competition across many aspects of our business, but our primary competitors are in the hospitality central reservation system and property management system ("PMS") fields.
Factors that may affect the competitive success of our Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses include our pricing structure, our ability to keep pace with technological developments, the effectiveness and reliability of our implementation and system migration processes, our ability to meet a variety of customer specifications, the effectiveness and reliability of our systems, the cost and efficiency of our system upgrades and our customer support services. Our failure to compete effectively on these and other factors could decrease our market share, adversely impact our pricing or otherwise negatively affect our Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses.
Our ability to recruit, train and retain employees, including our key executive officers and technical employees, is critical to our results of operations and future growth.
Our continued ability to compete effectively depends on our ability to recruit new employees and retain and motivate existing employees, particularly professionals with experience in our industry, information technology and systems, as well as our key executive officers. For example, the specialized skills we require can be difficult and time-consuming to acquire and are often in short supply. There is high demand and competition for well-qualified employees on a global basis, such as software engineers, developers and other technology professionals with specialized knowledge in software development, especially expertise in certain programming languages. This competition affects both our ability to retain key employees and to hire new ones. Similarly, uncertainty in the global political environment may adversely affect our ability to hire and retain key employees. Any of our employees may choose to terminate their employment with us at any time, and a lengthy period of time is required to hire and train replacement employees when such skilled individuals leave the company. Furthermore, changes in our employee population, including our executive team, could impact our results of operations and growth. For example, Sean Menke was elected as President and Chief Executive Officer of Sabre on December 31, 2016. Subsequent to his election, we have announced modifications to our business strategies and increased long-term investment in key areas, such as technology infrastructure, that may continue to have a negative impact in the short term due to expected increases in operating expenses and capital expenditures. If we fail to attract well-qualified employees or to retain or motivate existing employees, our business could be materially hindered by, for example, a delay in our ability to deliver products and services under contract, bring new products and services to market or respond swiftly to customer demands or new offerings from competitors.
Our Travel Network, Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses depend on maintaining and renewing contracts with their customers and other counterparties.
In our Travel Network business, we enter into participating carrier distribution and services agreements with airlines. Our contracts with major carriers typically last for three- to five-year terms and are generally subject to automatic renewal at the end of the term, unless terminated by either party with the required advance notice. Our contracts with smaller airlines generally last for one year and are also subject to automatic renewal at the end of the term, unless terminated by either party with the required
advance notice. Airlines are not typically contractually obligated to distribute exclusively through our GDS during the contract term and may terminate their agreements with us upon providing the required advance notice after the expiration of the initial term. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to renew our airline contracts in the future on favorable economic terms or at all. See “—Our Travel Network business is exposed to pricing pressure from travel suppliers."
We also enter into contracts with travel buyers. Although most of our travel buyer contracts have terms of one to three years, we typically have non-exclusive, five- to ten-year contracts with our major travel agency customers. We also typically have three- to five-year contracts with corporate travel departments, which generally renew automatically unless terminated with the required advance notice. A meaningful portion of our travel buyer agreements, typically representing approximately 15% to 20% of our bookings, are up for renewal in any given year. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to renew our travel buyer agreements in the future on favorable economic terms or at all.
Similarly, our Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions businesses are based on contracts with travel suppliers for a typical duration of three to seven years for airlines and one to five years for hotels, respectively. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to renew our solutions contracts in the future on favorable economic terms or at all.
Additionally, we use several third-party distributor partners and joint ventures to extend our GDS services in EMEA and APAC. The termination of our contractual arrangements with any of these third-party distributor partners and joint ventures could adversely impact our Travel Network business in the relevant markets. See “—We rely on third-party distributor partners and joint ventures to extend our GDS services to certain regions, which exposes us to risks associated with lack of direct management control and potential conflicts of interest” for more information on our relationships with our third-party distributor partners and joint ventures.
Our failure to renew some or all of these agreements on economically favorable terms or at all, or the early termination of these existing contracts, would adversely affect the value of our Travel Network business as a marketplace due to our limited content and distribution reach, which could cause some of our subscribers to move to a competing GDS or use other travel technology providers for the solutions we provide and would materially harm our business, reputation and brand. Our business therefore relies on our ability to renew our agreements with our travel buyers, travel suppliers, third-party distributor partners and joint ventures or developing relationships with new travel buyers and travel suppliers to offset any customer losses.
We are subject to a certain degree of revenue concentration among a portion of our customer base. Because of this concentration among a small number of customers, if an event were to adversely affect one of these customers, it could have a material impact on our business.
Our travel supplier customers may experience financial instability or consolidation, pursue cost reductions, change their distribution model or undergo other changes.
We generate the majority of our revenue and accounts receivable from airlines. We also derive revenue from hotels, car rental brands, rail carriers, cruise lines, tour operators and other suppliers in the travel and tourism industries. Adverse changes in any of these relationships or the inability to enter into new relationships could negatively impact the demand for and competitiveness of our travel products and services. For example, a lack of liquidity in the capital markets or weak economic performance may cause our travel suppliers to increase the time they take to pay or to default on their payment obligations, which could lead to a higher level of bad debt expense and negatively affect our results. Any large-scale bankruptcy or other insolvency proceeding of an airline or hospitality supplier could subject our agreements with that customer to rejection or early termination, and, if applicable, result in asset impairments which could be significant. Similarly, any suspension or cessation of operations of an airline or hospitality supplier could negatively affect our results. Because we generally do not require security or collateral from our customers as a condition of sale, our revenues may be subject to credit risk more generally.
Furthermore, supplier consolidation, particularly in the airline industry, could harm our business. Additionally, all of our businesses are highly dependent on airline ticket volumes. Consolidation among airlines could result in the loss of an existing customer and the related fee revenue, decreased airline ticket volumes due to capacity restrictions implemented concurrently with the consolidation, and increased airline concentration and bargaining power to negotiate lower transaction fees. See "—Our Travel Network business is exposed to pricing pressure from travel suppliers." In addition, consolidation among travel suppliers may result in one or more suppliers refusing to provide certain content to Sabre but rather making it exclusively available on the suppliers’ proprietary websites, hurting the competitive position of our GDS relative to those websites. See “—Travel suppliers’ use of alternative distribution models, such as direct distribution models, could adversely affect our Travel Network business.”
Our Travel Network business depends on relationships with travel buyers.
Our Travel Network business relies on relationships with several large travel buyers, including TMCs and OTAs, to generate a large portion of its revenue through bookings made by these travel companies. This revenue concentration in a relatively small number of travel buyers makes us particularly dependent on factors affecting those companies. For example, if demand for their services decreases, or if a key supplier pulls its content from us, travel buyers may stop utilizing our services or move all or some of their business to competitors or competing channels.
Although our contracts with larger travel agencies often increase the incentive consideration when the travel agency processes a certain volume or percentage of its bookings through our GDS, travel buyers are not contractually required to book exclusively through our GDS during the contract term. Travel buyers may shift bookings to other distribution intermediaries for
many reasons, including to avoid becoming overly dependent on a single source of travel content or to increase their bargaining power with GDS providers. Additionally, some regulations allow travel buyers to terminate their contracts earlier.
These risks are exacerbated by increased consolidation among travel agencies and TMCs, which may ultimately reduce the pool of travel agencies that subscribe to GDSs. We must compete with other GDSs and other competitors for their business by offering competitive upfront incentive consideration, which, due to the strong bargaining power of these large travel buyers, tend to increase in each round of contract renewals. See "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Factors Affecting Our Results—Increasing travel agency incentive consideration" for more information about our incentive consideration. However, any reduction in transaction fees from travel suppliers due to supplier consolidation or other market forces could limit our ability to increase incentive consideration to travel agencies in a cost-effective manner or otherwise affect our margins.
Our business could be harmed by adverse global and regional economic and political conditions.
Travel expenditures are sensitive to personal and business discretionary spending levels and grow more slowly or decline during economic downturns. We derive the majority of our revenue from the United States and Europe, and we have expanded Travel Network's presence in APAC. Our geographic concentration in the United States and Europe, as well as our expanded focus in APAC, makes our business potentially vulnerable to economic and political conditions that adversely affect business and leisure travel originating in or traveling to these regions.
Despite modest growth in the U.S. economy, there is still weakness in other parts of the global economy, including increased unemployment, reduced financial capacity of both business and leisure travelers, diminished liquidity and credit availability, declines in consumer confidence and discretionary income and general uncertainty about economic stability. Furthermore, recent changes in the U.S. political environment have resulted in additional uncertainties with respect to travel restrictions, and the regulatory, tax and economic environment in the United States, which could adversely impact travel demand, our business operations or our financial results. We cannot predict the magnitude, length or recurrence of recessionary or low-growth economic patterns, which have impacted, and may continue to impact, demand for travel and lead to reduced spending on the services we provide.
We derive the remainder of our revenues from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa and APAC. Any unfavorable economic, political or regulatory developments in these regions could negatively affect our business, such as delays in payment or non-payment of contracts, delays in contract implementation or signing, carrier control issues and increased costs from regulatory changes particularly as parts of our growth strategy involve expanding our presence in these emerging markets. For example, markets that have traditionally had a high level of exports to China, or that have commodities-based economies, have continued to experience slowing or deteriorating economic conditions. These adverse economic conditions may negatively impact our business results in those regions.
Similarly, in Venezuela, due to currency controls that impact the ability of certain of our airline customers operating in the country to obtain U.S. dollars to make timely payments to us, the collection of accounts receivable due to us can be, and has been, delayed. Due to the nature of this delay, we are deferring the recognition of any future revenues until cash is collected in accordance with our policies. Accordingly, our accounts receivable is subject to a general collection risk, as there can be no assurance that we will be paid from such customers in a timely manner, if at all. In response to the political and economic uncertainty in Venezuela, certain airlines have scaled back operations in response to the reduced demand for travel by local consumers as well as the currency controls which has impacted our airline customers in Venezuela.
Voters in the U.K. have approved the exit of that country from the E.U. (“Brexit”), which became effective as of January 31, 2020, and is now in a transition period through December 31, 2020. Brexit and related processes have created significant economic uncertainty in the U.K. and in EMEA, which may negatively impact our business results in those regions. In addition, the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the E.U., once negotiated during the transition period, if at all, could potentially disrupt the markets we serve and the tax jurisdictions in which we operate and adversely change tax benefits or liabilities in these or other jurisdictions, including our ability to obtain Value Added Tax ("VAT") refunds on transactions between the U.K. and the E.U., and may cause us to lose customers, suppliers, and employees. In addition, Brexit could lead to legal uncertainty and potentially divergent national laws and regulations as the U.K. determines which E.U. laws to replace or replicate.
We operate a global business that exposes us to risks associated with international activities.
Our international operations involve risks that are not generally encountered when doing business in the United States. These risks include, but are not limited to:
•business, political and economic instability in foreign locations, including actual or threatened terrorist activities, and military action;
•adverse laws and regulatory requirements, including more comprehensive regulation in the E.U. and the possible effects of Brexit;
•changes in foreign currency exchange rates and financial risk arising from transactions in multiple currencies;
•difficulty in developing, managing and staffing international operations because of distance, language and cultural differences;
•disruptions to or delays in the development of communication and transportation services and infrastructure;
•more restrictive data privacy requirements, including the GDPR;
•consumer attitudes, including the preference of customers for local providers;
•increasing labor costs due to high wage inflation in foreign locations, differences in general employment conditions and regulations, and the degree of employee unionization and activism;
•export or trade restrictions or currency controls;
•governmental policies or actions, such as consumer, labor and trade protection measures and travel restrictions;
•taxes, restrictions on foreign investment and limits on the repatriation of funds;
•diminished ability to legally enforce our contractual rights; and
•decreased protection for intellectual property.
Any of the foregoing risks may adversely affect our ability to conduct and grow our business internationally.
We are involved in various legal proceedings which may cause us to incur significant fees, costs and expenses and may result in unfavorable outcomes.
We are involved in various legal proceedings that involve claims for substantial amounts of money or which involve how we conduct our business. See Note 16. Commitments and Contingencies, to our consolidated financial statements. For example, we are involved in antitrust litigation with US Airways. If we cannot resolve this matter favorably, we could be subject to monetary damages, including treble damages under the antitrust laws and payment of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs; depending on the amount of any such judgment, if we do not have sufficient cash on hand, we may be required to seek financing from private or public financing. Other parties might likewise seek to benefit from any unfavorable outcome by threatening to bring or actually bringing their own claims against us on the same or similar grounds or utilizing the litigation to seek more favorable contract terms. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") has filed a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction to prevent us from acquiring Farelogix, Inc. ("Farelogix"). The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority ("CMA") has referred its review of this acquisition for a Phase 2 investigation and has published its provisional findings of competition concerns. We are also subject to a DOJ antitrust investigation from 2011 relating to the pricing and conduct of the airline distribution industry. We received a civil investigative demand ("CID") from the DOJ and we are fully cooperating. The DOJ has also sent CIDs to other companies in the travel industry. Based on its findings in the investigation, the DOJ may (i) close the file, (ii) seek a consent decree to remedy issues it believes violate the antitrust laws, or (iii) file suit against us for violating the antitrust laws, seeking injunctive relief. In addition, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition ("EC") has opened an investigation to assess whether our and Amadeus’ respective agreements with airlines and travel agents may restrict competition in breach of E.U. antitrust rules. There is no legal deadline for the EC to bring an antitrust investigation to an end, and the duration of the investigation is unknown. Depending on the outcome of any of these matters, and the scope of the outcome, the manner in which our airline distribution business is operated could be affected and could potentially force changes to the existing airline distribution business model.
The defense of these actions, as well as any of the other actions described under Note 16. Commitments and Contingencies, to our consolidated financial statements or elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and any other actions brought against us in the future, is time consuming and diverts management’s attention. Even if we are ultimately successful in defending ourselves in such matters, we are likely to incur significant fees, costs and expenses as long as they are ongoing. Any of these consequences could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are exposed to risks associated with acquiring or divesting businesses or business operations.
We have acquired, and, as part of our growth strategy, may in the future acquire, businesses or business operations. We may not be able to identify suitable candidates for additional business combinations and strategic investments, obtain financing on acceptable terms for such transactions, obtain necessary regulatory approvals or otherwise consummate such transactions on acceptable terms, or at all.
For example, we announced on November 14, 2018 that we have entered into an agreement to acquire Farelogix. At closing, Sabre will purchase Farelogix for $360 million, funded by cash on hand and Revolver (as defined in Item 8. Financial Statements, Note 8. Debt) borrowing. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. On August 20, 2019, the DOJ filed a complaint in federal court in the District of Delaware, seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Sabre from acquiring Farelogix. There can be no assurance that Sabre and Farelogix will be successful in this litigation, or that such litigation will be completed prior to the termination date under the acquisition agreement. In addition, the litigation will require substantial time and attention from Sabre’s management, and will involve significant contact by Sabre, Farelogix and DOJ with existing customers, suppliers and other important constituencies. This may negatively impact Sabre’s and Farelogix’s respective ongoing businesses, their relationships with their customers, suppliers or other constituents, and the reputation of each Sabre and Farelogix. In addition, the CMA has referred its review of the acquisition for a Phase 2 investigation and has published its provisional findings of competition concerns. Sabre and Farelogix may fail to secure the requisite approvals in a timely manner or on terms desired or anticipated, and the acquisition of Farelogix may not close in the anticipated time frame, if at all. The acquisition agreement, as amended, contains certain customary termination rights, including the right of either party to terminate the acquisition agreement if the acquisition has not occurred by April 30, 2020.
Any acquisitions that we are able to identify and complete may also involve a number of risks, including our inability to successfully or profitably integrate, operate, maintain and manage our newly acquired operations or employees; the diversion of our management’s attention from our existing business to integrate operations and personnel; possible material adverse effects on our results of operations during the integration process; becoming subject to contingent or other liabilities, including liabilities arising from events or conduct predating the acquisition that were not known to us at the time of the acquisition; and our possible inability to achieve the intended objectives of the acquisition, including the inability to achieve anticipated business or financial results, cost savings and synergies. Acquisitions may also have unanticipated tax, regulatory and accounting ramifications, including recording goodwill and nonamortizable intangible assets that are subject to impairment testing on a regular basis and potential periodic impairment charges and incurring amortization expenses related to certain intangible assets. To consummate any of these acquisitions, we may need to raise external funds through the sale of equity or the issuance of debt in the capital markets or through private placements, which may affect our liquidity and may dilute the value of our common stock. See "—We have a significant amount of indebtedness, which could adversely affect our cash flow and our ability to operate our business and to fulfill our obligations under our indebtedness."
We have also divested, and may in the future divest, businesses or business operations. Any divestitures may involve a number of risks, including the diversion of management’s attention, significant costs and expenses, the loss of customer relationships and cash flow, and the disruption of the affected business or business operations. Failure to timely complete or to consummate a divestiture may negatively affect the valuation of the affected business or business operations or result in restructuring charges.
Any failure to comply with regulations or any changes in such regulations governing our businesses could adversely affect us.
Parts of our business operate in regulated industries and could be adversely affected by unfavorable changes in or the enactment of new laws, rules or regulations applicable to us, which could decrease demand for our products and services, increase costs or subject us to additional liabilities. Moreover, regulatory authorities have relatively broad discretion to grant, renew and revoke licenses and approvals and to implement or interpret regulations. Accordingly, these regulatory authorities could prevent or temporarily suspend us from carrying on some or all of our activities or otherwise penalize us if our practices were found not to comply with the applicable regulatory or licensing requirements or any interpretation of such requirements by the regulatory authority. In addition, we are subject to or affected by international, federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies, which are constantly subject to change. These include data protection and privacy legislation and regulations, as well as legislation and regulations affecting issues such as: trade sanctions, exports of technology, antitrust, anticorruption, telecommunications and e-commerce. Our failure to comply with any of these requirements, interpretations, legislation or regulations could have a material adverse effect on our operations.
Further, the United States has imposed economic sanctions, and could impose further sanctions in the future, that affect transactions with designated countries, including but not limited to, Cuba, Iran, Crimea region, North Korea and Syria, and nationals and others of those countries, and certain specifically targeted individuals and entities engaged in conduct detrimental to U.S. national security interests. These sanctions are administered by OFAC and are typically known as the OFAC regulations. These regulations are extensive and complex, and they differ from one sanctions regime to another. Failure to comply with these regulations could subject us to legal and reputational consequences, including civil and criminal penalties.
We have GDS contracts with carriers that fly to Cuba, Iran, Crimea region, North Korea and Syria but are based outside of those countries and are not owned by those governments or nationals of those governments. With respect to Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Syria we believe that our activities are designed to comply with certain information and travel-related exemptions. With respect to Cuba, we have advised OFAC that customers outside the United States we display on the Sabre GDS flight information for, and support booking and ticketing of, services of non-Cuban airlines that offer service to Cuba. Based on advice of counsel, we believe these activities to fall under an exemption from OFAC regulations applicable to the transmission of information and informational materials and transactions related thereto.
We believe that our activities with respect to these countries are known to OFAC. We note, however, that OFAC regulations and related interpretive guidance are complex and subject to varying interpretations. Due to this complexity, OFAC’s interpretation of its own regulations and guidance vary on a case to case basis. As a result, we cannot provide any guarantees that OFAC will not challenge any of our activities in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
In Europe, GDS regulations or interpretations thereof may increase our cost of doing business or lower our revenues, limit our ability to sell marketing data, impact relationships with travel buyers, airlines, rail carriers or others, impair the enforceability of existing agreements with travel buyers and other users of our system, prohibit or limit us from offering services or products, or limit our ability to establish or change fees. Although regulations specifically governing GDSs have been lifted in the United States, they remain subject to general regulation regarding unfair trade practices by the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”). In addition, continued regulation of GDSs in the E.U. and elsewhere could also create the operational challenge of supporting different products, services and business practices to conform to the different regulatory regimes. We do not currently maintain a central database of all regulatory requirements affecting our worldwide operations and, as a result, the risk of non-compliance with the laws and regulations described above is heightened. Our failure to comply with these laws and regulations may subject us to fines, penalties and potential criminal violations. Any changes to these laws or regulations or any new laws or regulations may make it more difficult for us to operate our business.
Our collection, processing, storage, use and transmission of personal data could give rise to liabilities as a result of governmental regulation, conflicting legal requirements, differing views on data privacy or security breaches.
We collect, process, store, use and transmit a large volume of personal data on a daily basis, including, for example, to process travel transactions for our customers and to deliver other travel-related products and services. Personal data is increasingly subject to legal and regulatory protections around the world, which vary widely in approach and which possibly conflict with one another. In recent years, for example, U.S. legislators and regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, as well as U.S. states, have increased their focus on protecting personal data by law and regulation, and have increased enforcement actions for violations of privacy and data protection requirements. The GDPR, a data protection law adopted by the European Commission, went into effect on May 25, 2018, and the CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020. These data protection laws and regulations are intended to protect the privacy and security of personal data, including credit card information that is collected, processed and transmitted in or from the relevant jurisdiction. Implementation of and compliance with these laws and regulations may be more costly or take longer than we anticipate, or could otherwise adversely affect our business operations, which could negatively impact our financial position or cash flows. Additionally, media coverage of data breaches has escalated, in part because of the increased number of enforcement actions, investigations and lawsuits. As this focus and attention on privacy and data protection increases, we also risk exposure to potential liabilities and costs resulting from the compliance with, or any failure to comply with applicable legal requirements, conflicts among these legal requirements or differences in approaches to privacy and security of travel data. Furthermore, various countries, including Russia, have implemented legislation requiring the storage of travel or other personal data locally. Our business could be materially adversely affected by our inability, or the inability of our vendors who receive personal data from us, to comply with legal obligations regarding the use of personal data, new data handling or localization requirements that conflict with or negatively impact our business practices. In addition, our agreements with customers may also require that we indemnify the customer for liability arising from data breaches under the terms of our agreements with these customers. These indemnification obligations could be significant and may exceed the limits of any applicable insurance policy we maintain. See “—Security breaches could expose us to liability and damage our reputation and our business.”
We are exposed to risks associated with PCI compliance.
The PCI Data Security Standard (“PCI DSS”) is a specific set of comprehensive security standards required by credit card brands for enhancing payment account data security, including but not limited to requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, and software design. PCI DSS compliance is required in order to maintain credit card processing services. The cost of compliance with PCI DSS is significant and may increase as the requirements change. We are tested periodically for assurance and successfully completed our last annual assessment in December 2019. Compliance does not guarantee a completely secure environment and notwithstanding the results of this assessment there can be no assurance that payment card brands will not request further compliance assessments or set forth additional requirements to maintain access to credit card processing services. See “—Security breaches could expose us to liability and damage our reputation and our business.” Compliance is an ongoing effort and the requirements evolve as new threats are identified. In the event that we were to lose PCI DSS compliance status (or fail to renew compliance under a future version of the PCI DSS), we could be exposed to increased operating costs, fines and penalties and, in extreme circumstances, may have our credit card processing privileges revoked, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.
Intellectual property infringement actions against us could be costly and time consuming to defend and may result in business harm if we are unsuccessful in our defense.
Third parties may assert, including by means of counterclaims against us as a result of the assertion of our intellectual property rights, that our products, services or technology, or the operation of our business, violate their intellectual property rights. We are currently subject to such assertions, including patent infringement claims, and may be subject to such assertions in the future. These assertions may also be made against our customers who may seek indemnification from us. In the ordinary course of business, we enter into agreements that contain indemnity obligations whereby we are required to indemnify our customers against these assertions arising from our customers’ usage of our products, services or technology. As the competition in our industry increases and the functionality of technology offerings further overlaps, these claims and counterclaims could become more common. We cannot be certain that we do not or will not infringe third parties’ intellectual property rights.
Legal proceedings involving intellectual property rights are highly uncertain and can involve complex legal and scientific questions. Any intellectual property claim against us, regardless of its merit, could result in significant liabilities to our business, and can be expensive and time consuming to defend. Depending on the nature of such claims, our businesses may be disrupted, our management’s attention and other company resources may be diverted and we may be required to redesign, reengineer or rebrand our products and services, if feasible, to stop offering certain products and services or to enter into royalty or licensing agreements in order to obtain the rights to use necessary technologies, which may not be available on terms acceptable to us, if at all, and may result in a decrease of our competitive advantage. Our failure to prevail in such matters could result in loss of intellectual property rights, judgments awarding substantial damages, including possible treble damages and attorneys’ fees, and injunctive or other equitable relief against us. If we are held liable, we may be unable to exploit some or all of our intellectual property rights or technology. Even if we are not held liable, we may choose to settle claims by making a monetary payment or by granting a license to intellectual property rights that we otherwise would not license. Further, judgments may result in loss of reputation, may force us to take costly remediation actions, delay selling our products and offering our
services, reduce features or functionality in our services or products, or cease such activities altogether. Insurance may not cover or be insufficient for any such claim.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property effectively, which may allow competitors to duplicate our products and services.
Our success and competitiveness depend, in part, upon our technologies and other intellectual property, including our brands. Among our significant assets are our proprietary and licensed software and other proprietary information and intellectual property rights. We rely on a combination of copyright, trademark and patent laws, laws protecting trade secrets, confidentiality procedures and contractual provisions to protect these assets both in the United States and in foreign countries. The laws of some jurisdictions may provide less protection for our technologies and other intellectual property assets than the laws of the United States.
There is no certainty that our intellectual property rights will provide us with substantial protection or commercial benefit. Despite our efforts to protect our intellectual property, some of our innovations may not be protectable, and our intellectual property rights may offer insufficient protection from competition or unauthorized use, lapse or expire, be challenged, narrowed, invalidated, or misappropriated by third parties, or be deemed unenforceable or abandoned, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and the legal remedies available to us may not adequately compensate us. We cannot be certain that others will not independently develop, design around, or otherwise acquire equivalent or superior technology or intellectual property rights.
•While we take reasonable steps to protect our brands and trademarks, we may not be successful in maintaining or defending our brands or preventing third parties from adopting similar brands. If our competitors infringe our principal trademarks, our brands may become diluted or if our competitors introduce brands or products that cause confusion with our brands or products in the marketplace, the value that our consumers associate with our brands may become diminished, which could negatively impact revenue.
•Our patent applications may not be granted, and the patents we own could be challenged, invalidated, narrowed or circumvented by others and may not be of sufficient scope or strength to provide us with any meaningful protection or commercial advantage. Once our patents expire, or if they are invalidated, narrowed or circumvented, our competitors may be able to utilize the technology protected by our patents which may adversely affect our business.
•Although we rely on copyright laws to protect the works of authorship created by us, we do not generally register the copyrights in our copyrightable works where such registration is permitted. Copyrights of U.S. origin must be registered before the copyright owner may bring an infringement suit in the United States. Accordingly, if one of our unregistered copyrights of U.S. origin is infringed by a third party, we will need to register the copyright before we can file an infringement suit in the United States, and our remedies in any such infringement suit may be limited.
•We use reasonable efforts to protect our trade secrets. However, protecting trade secrets can be difficult and our efforts may provide inadequate protection to prevent unauthorized use, misappropriation, or disclosure of our trade secrets, know how, or other proprietary information.
•We also rely on our domain names to conduct our online businesses. While we use reasonable efforts to protect and maintain our domain names, if we fail to do so the domain names may become available to others. Further, the regulatory bodies that oversee domain name registration may change their regulations in a way that adversely affects our ability to register and use certain domain names.
We license software and other intellectual property from third parties. These licensors may breach or otherwise fail to perform their obligations or claim that we have breached or otherwise attempt to terminate their license agreements with us. We also rely on license agreements to allow third parties to use our intellectual property rights, including our software, but there is no guarantee that our licensees will abide by the terms of our license agreements or that the terms of our agreements will always be enforceable.
In addition, policing unauthorized use of and enforcing intellectual property can be difficult and expensive. The fact that we have intellectual property rights, including registered intellectual property rights, may not guarantee success in our attempts to enforce these rights against third parties. Besides general litigation risks, changes in, or interpretations of, intellectual property laws may compromise our ability to enforce our rights. We may not be aware of infringement or misappropriation or elect not to seek to prevent it. Our decisions may be based on a variety of factors, such as costs and benefits of taking action, and contextual business, legal, and other issues. Any inability to adequately protect our intellectual property on a cost-effective basis could harm our business.
We use open source software in our solutions that may subject our software solutions to general release or require us to re-engineer our solutions.
We use open source software in our solutions and may use more open source software in the future. From time to time, there have been claims by companies claiming ownership of software that was previously thought to be open source and that was incorporated by other companies into their products. As a result, we could be subject to suits by parties claiming ownership of what we believe to be open source software. Some open source licenses contain requirements that we make available source code for modifications or derivative works we create based upon the open source software and that we license these modifications or derivative works under the terms of a particular open source license or other license granting third parties certain
rights of further use. If we combine or, in some cases, link our proprietary software solutions with or to open source software in a certain manner, we could, under certain of the open source licenses, be required to release the source code of our proprietary software solutions or license such proprietary solutions under the terms of a particular open source license or other license granting third parties certain rights of further use. In addition to risks related to license requirements, usage of open source software can lead to greater risks than use of third-party commercial software, as open source licensors generally do not provide warranties or controls on origin of the software. In addition, open source license terms may be ambiguous and many of the risks associated with usage of open source cannot be eliminated, and could, if not properly addressed, negatively affect our business. If we were found to have inappropriately used open source software, we may be required to seek licenses from third parties in order to continue offering our software, to re-engineer our solutions, to discontinue the sale of our solutions in the event re-engineering cannot be accomplished on a timely basis or take other remedial action that may divert resources away from our development efforts, any of which could adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition.
We rely on the value of our brands, which may be damaged by a number of factors, some of which are out of our control.
We believe that maintaining and expanding our portfolio of product and service brands are important aspects of our efforts to attract and expand our customer base. Our brands may be negatively impacted by, among other things, unreliable service levels from third-party providers, customers’ inability to properly interface their applications with our technology, the loss or unauthorized disclosure of personal data, including PCI or PII, or other bad publicity due to litigation, regulatory concerns or otherwise relating to our business. See “—Security breaches could expose us to liability and damage our reputation and our business.” Any inability to maintain or enhance awareness of our brands among our existing and target customers could negatively affect our current and future business prospects.
Maintaining and improving our financial controls and the requirements of being a public company may strain our resources, divert management’s attention and affect our ability to attract and retain qualified board members.
As a public company, we are subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (the “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”), the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) and The NASDAQ Stock Market (“NASDAQ”) rules. The requirements of these rules and regulations have increased and will continue to significantly increase our legal and financial compliance costs, including costs associated with the hiring of additional personnel, making some activities more difficult, time-consuming or costly, and may also place undue strain on our personnel, systems and resources. The Exchange Act requires, among other things, that we file annual, quarterly and current reports with respect to our business and financial condition.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we maintain disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting. Ensuring that we have adequate internal financial and accounting controls and procedures in place, as well as maintaining these controls and procedures, is a costly and time-consuming effort that needs to be re-evaluated frequently. Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“Section 404”) requires that we annually evaluate our internal control over financial reporting to enable management to report on, and our independent auditors to audit as of the end of each fiscal year the effectiveness of those controls. In connection with the Section 404 requirements, both we and our independent registered public accounting firm test our internal controls and could, as part of that documentation and testing, identify material weaknesses, significant deficiencies or other areas for further attention or improvement.
Implementing any appropriate changes to our internal controls may require specific compliance training for our directors, officers and employees, require the hiring of additional finance, accounting and other personnel, entail substantial costs to modify our existing accounting systems, or any manual systems or processes, and take a significant period of time to complete. These changes may not, however, be effective in maintaining the adequacy of our internal controls, and any failure to maintain that adequacy, or consequent inability to produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis, could increase our operating costs and could materially impair our ability to operate our business. Moreover, adequate internal controls are necessary for us to produce reliable financial reports and are important to help prevent fraud. As a result, our failure to satisfy the requirements of Section 404 on a timely basis could result in the loss of investor confidence in the reliability of our financial statements, which in turn could cause the market value of our common stock to decline.
Various rules and regulations applicable to public companies make it more difficult and more expensive for us to maintain directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, and we may be required to accept reduced coverage or incur substantially higher costs to maintain coverage. If we are unable to maintain adequate directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, our ability to recruit and retain qualified officers and directors, especially those directors who may be deemed independent for purposes of the NASDAQ rules, will be significantly curtailed.
We rely on third-party distributor partners and joint ventures to extend our GDS services to certain regions, which exposes us to risks associated with lack of direct management control and potential conflicts of interest.
Our Travel Network business utilizes third-party distributor partners and joint ventures to extend our GDS services in EMEA and APAC. We work with these partners to establish and maintain commercial and customer service relationships with both travel suppliers and travel buyers. Since, in many cases, we do not exercise full management control over their day-to-day operations, the success of their marketing efforts and the quality of the services they provide are beyond our control. If these partners do not meet our standards for distribution, our reputation may suffer materially, and sales in those regions could decline significantly. Any interruption in these third-party services, deterioration in their performance or termination of our contractual
arrangements with them could negatively impact our ability to extend our GDS services in the relevant markets. In addition, our business may be harmed due to potential conflicts of interest with our joint venture partners.
We may have higher than anticipated tax liabilities.
We are subject to a variety of taxes in many jurisdictions globally, including income taxes in the United States at the federal, state and local levels, and in many other countries. Significant judgment is required in determining our worldwide provision for income taxes. In the ordinary course of our business, there are many transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. We operate in numerous countries where our income tax returns are subject to audit and adjustment by local tax authorities. Because we operate globally, the nature of the uncertain tax positions is often very complex and subject to change, and the amounts at issue can be substantial. It is inherently difficult and subjective to estimate such amounts, as we have to determine the probability of various possible outcomes. We re-evaluate uncertain tax positions on a quarterly basis. This evaluation is based on factors including, but not limited to, changes in facts or circumstances, changes in tax law, effectively settled issues under audit and new audit activity. Although we believe our tax estimates are reasonable, the final determination of tax audits could be materially different from our historical income tax provisions and accruals. Our effective tax rate may change from year to year based on changes in the mix of activities and income allocated or earned among various jurisdictions, tax laws in these jurisdictions, tax treaties between countries, our eligibility for benefits under those tax treaties, and the estimated values of deferred tax assets and liabilities. Such changes could result in an increase in the effective tax rate applicable to all or a portion of our income which would reduce our profitability.
We establish reserves for our potential liability for U.S. and non-U.S. taxes, including sales, occupancy and VAT, consistent with applicable accounting principles and in light of all current facts and circumstances. We also establish reserves when required relating to the collection of refunds related to value-added taxes, which are subject to audit and collection risks in various countries. Historically our right to recover certain value-added tax receivables associated with our European businesses has been questioned by tax authorities. These reserves represent our best estimate of our contingent liability for taxes. The interpretation of tax laws and the determination of any potential liability under those laws are complex, and the amount of our liability may exceed our established reserves.
We consider the undistributed capital investments in our foreign subsidiaries to be indefinitely reinvested as of December 31, 2019 and, accordingly, have not provided deferred taxes on any outside basis differences.
New tax laws, statutes, rules, regulations or ordinances could be enacted at any time and existing tax laws, statutes, rules, regulations and ordinances could be interpreted, changed, modified or applied adversely to us. These events could require us to pay additional tax amounts on a prospective or retroactive basis, as well as require us to pay fees, penalties or interest for past amounts deemed to be due. New, changed, modified or newly interpreted or applied laws could also increase our compliance, operating and other costs, as well as the costs of our products and services. Several countries, primarily in Europe, and the European Commission have proposed or adopted taxes on revenue earned by multinational corporations in certain "digital economy" sectors from activities linked to the user-based activity of their residents. These proposals have generally been labeled as "digital services taxes" ("DSTs"). We continue to evaluate the potential effects that the DST may have on our operations, cash flows and results of operations. The future impact of the DST, including on our global operations, is uncertain, and our business and financial condition could be adversely affected.
We may not have sufficient insurance to cover our liability in pending litigation claims and future claims either due to coverage limits or as a result of insurance carriers seeking to deny coverage of such claims, which in either case could expose us to significant liabilities.
We maintain third-party insurance coverage against various liability risks, including securities, stockholders, derivative, ERISA, and product liability claims, as well as other claims that form the basis of litigation matters pending against us. We believe these insurance programs are an effective way to protect our assets against liability risks. However, the potential liabilities associated with litigation matters pending against us, or that could arise in the future, could exceed the coverage provided by such programs. In addition, our insurance carriers have in the past sought or may in the future seek to rescind or deny coverage with respect to pending claims or lawsuits, completed investigations or pending or future investigations and other legal actions against us. If we do not have sufficient coverage under our policies, or if the insurance companies are successful in rescinding or denying coverage, we may be required to make material payments in connection with third-party claims.
Defects in our products may subject us to significant warranty liabilities or product liability claims and we may have insufficient product liability insurance to pay material uninsured claims.
Our business exposes us to the risk of product liability claims that are inherent in software development. We may inadvertently create defective software or supply our customers with defective software or software components that we acquire from third parties, which could result in personal injury, property damage or other liabilities, and may result in warranty or product liability claims brought against us, our travel supplier customers or third parties.
Under our customer agreements, we generally must indemnify our customers for liability arising from intellectual property infringement claims with respect to our software. These indemnifications could be significant and we may not have adequate insurance coverage to protect us against all claims. The combination of our insurance coverage, cash flows and reserves may not be adequate to satisfy product liabilities we may incur in the future. Even meritless claims could subject us to adverse publicity, hinder us from securing insurance coverage in the future, require us to incur significant legal fees, decrease demand for any products that we successfully develop, divert management’s attention, and force us to limit or forgo further development and
commercialization of these products. The cost of any product liability litigation or other proceedings, even if resolved in our favor, could be substantial.
We may recognize impairments on long-lived assets, including goodwill and other intangible assets, or recognize impairments on our equity method investments.
Our consolidated balance sheet at December 31, 2019 contained goodwill and intangible assets, net totaling $3.2 billion. Future acquisitions that result in the recognition of additional goodwill and intangible assets would cause an increase in these types of assets. We do not amortize goodwill and intangible assets that are determined to have indefinite useful lives, but we amortize definite-lived intangible assets on a straight-line basis over their useful economic lives, which range from four to thirty years, depending on classification.
We evaluate goodwill for impairment on an annual basis or earlier if impairment indicators exist and we evaluate definite-lived intangible assets for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of definite-lived intangible assets used in combination to generate cash flows largely independent of other assets may not be recoverable. We record an impairment charge whenever the estimated fair value of our reporting units or of such intangible assets is less than its carrying value.
The fair values used in our impairment evaluation are estimated using a combined approach based upon discounted future cash flow projections and observed market multiples for comparable businesses. Changes in estimates based on changes in risk-adjusted discount rates, future booking and transaction volume levels, future price levels, rates of growth in our consumer and corporate direct booking businesses, rates of increase in operating expenses, cost of revenue and taxes could result in material impairment charges.
Our pension plan obligations are currently unfunded, and we may have to make significant cash contributions to our plans, which could reduce the cash available for our business.
Our pension plans in the aggregate are estimated to be unfunded by $125 million as of December 31, 2019. With approximately 4,800 participants in our pension plans, we incur substantial costs relating to pension benefits, which can vary substantially as a result of changes in healthcare laws and costs, volatility in investment returns on pension plan assets and changes in discount rates used to calculate related liabilities. Our estimates of liabilities and expenses for pension benefits require the use of assumptions, including assumptions relating to the rate used to discount the future estimated liability, the rate of return on plan assets, inflation and several assumptions relating to the employee workforce (medical costs, retirement age and mortality). Actual results may differ, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations. Future volatility and disruption in the stock markets could cause a decline in the asset values of our pension plans. In addition, a decrease in the discount rate used to determine minimum funding requirements could result in increased future contributions. If either occurs, we may need to make additional pension contributions above what is currently estimated, which could reduce the cash available for our businesses.
We may require more cash than we generate in our operating activities, and additional funding on reasonable terms or at all may not be available.
We cannot guarantee that our business will generate sufficient cash flow from operations to fund our capital investment requirements or other liquidity needs. Moreover, because we are a holding company with no material direct operations, we depend on loans, dividends and other payments from our subsidiaries to generate the funds necessary to meet our financial obligations. Our subsidiaries are legally distinct from us and may be prohibited or restricted from paying dividends or otherwise making funds available to us under certain conditions.
As a result, we may be required to finance our cash needs through bank loans, additional debt financing, public or private equity offerings or otherwise. Our ability to arrange financing and the cost of such financing are dependent on numerous factors, including but not limited to general economic and capital market conditions, the availability of credit from banks or other lenders, investor confidence in us, and our results of operations.
There can be no assurance that financing will be available on terms favorable to us or at all, which could force us to delay, reduce or abandon our growth strategy, increase our financing costs, or both. Additional funding from debt financings may make it more difficult for us to operate our business because a portion of our cash generated from internal operations would be used to make principal and interest payments on the indebtedness and we may be obligated to abide by restrictive covenants contained in the debt financing agreements, which may, among other things, limit our ability to make business decisions and further limit our ability to pay dividends.
In addition, any downgrade of our debt ratings by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investor Service or similar ratings agencies, increases in general interest rate levels and credit spreads or overall weakening in the credit markets could increase our cost of capital. Furthermore, raising capital through public or private sales of equity to finance acquisitions or expansion could cause earnings or ownership dilution to your shareholding interests in our company.
We have a significant amount of indebtedness, which could adversely affect our cash flow and our ability to operate our business and to fulfill our obligations under our indebtedness.
We have a significant amount of indebtedness. As of December 31, 2019, we had $3.3 billion of indebtedness outstanding in addition to $388 million of availability under our Revolver, after taking into account the availability reduction of $12 million for
letters of credit issued under our Revolver. Our substantial level of indebtedness increases the possibility that we may not generate enough cash flow from operations to pay, when due, the principal of, interest on or other amounts due in respect of, these obligations. Other risks relating to our long-term indebtedness include:
•increased vulnerability to general adverse economic and industry conditions;
•higher interest expense if interest rates increase on our floating rate borrowings and our hedging strategies do not effectively mitigate the effects of these increases;
•need to divert a significant portion of our cash flow from operations to payments on our indebtedness, thereby reducing the availability of cash to fund working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, investments and other general corporate purposes;
•limited ability to obtain additional financing, on terms we find acceptable, if needed, for working capital, capital expenditures, expansion plans and other investments, which may adversely affect our ability to implement our business strategy;
•limited flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our businesses and the markets in which we operate or to take advantage of market opportunities; and
•a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors that have less debt.
In addition, it is possible that we may need to incur additional indebtedness in the future in the ordinary course of business. The terms of our Amended and Restated Credit Agreement and the indentures governing our senior secured notes due in 2023 allow us to incur additional debt subject to certain limitations. If new debt is added to current debt levels, the risks described above could intensify. In addition, our inability to maintain certain leverage ratios could result in acceleration of a portion of our debt obligations and could cause us to be in default if we are unable to repay the accelerated obligations.
We are exposed to interest rate fluctuations.
Our floating rate indebtedness exposes us to fluctuations in prevailing interest rates. To reduce the impact of large fluctuations in interest rates, we typically hedge a portion of our interest rate risk by entering into derivative agreements with financial institutions. Our exposure to interest rates relates primarily to our borrowings under the Amended and Restated Credit Agreement.
The derivative agreements that we use to manage the risk associated with fluctuations in interest rates may not be able to eliminate the exposure to these changes. Interest rates are sensitive to numerous factors outside of our control, such as government and central bank monetary policy in the jurisdictions in which we operate. Depending on the size of the exposures and the relative movements of interest rates, if we choose not to hedge or fail to effectively hedge our exposure, we could experience a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
As of December 31, 2019, we had outstanding approximately $2.3 billion of variable debt that is indexed to the London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR"). In July 2017, the Financial Conduct Authority announced its intention to phase out LIBOR by the end of 2021. It is not possible to predict the effect of any changes in the methods by which LIBOR is determined or regulatory activity related to LIBOR’s phaseout. Any of these developments could cause LIBOR to perform differently than in the past or cease to exist. If a published U.S. dollar LIBOR rate is unavailable, the interest rates on our debt indexed to LIBOR will be determined using various alternative methods set forth in our Amended and Restated Credit Agreement, any of which could result in interest obligations that are more than or that do not otherwise correlate over time with the payments that would have been made on this debt if U.S. dollar LIBOR were available in its current form. Any of these proposals or consequences could have a material adverse effect on our financing costs. Moreover, our interest rate swap agreements designated in a hedging relationship utilize one-month LIBOR and have maturities that extend through 2021. See Note 9. Derivatives, to our consolidated financial statements. The phaseout of the LIBOR may adversely affect our assessment of effectiveness or measurement of ineffectiveness for accounting purposes.
We are exposed to exchange rate fluctuations.
We conduct various operations outside the United States, primarily in APAC, Europe and Latin America. During the year ended December 31, 2019, foreign currency operations included $246 million of revenue and $572 million of operating expenses, representing approximately 6% and 16% of our total revenue and operating expenses, respectively. During the year ended December 31, 2018, foreign currency operations included $264 million of revenue and $583 million of operating expenses, representing approximately 7% and 18% of our total revenue and operating expenses, respectively. Our most significant foreign currency operating expenses are in the Euro, representing approximately 7% of our operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. As a result, we face exposure to movements in currency exchange rates. These exposures include but are not limited to:
•re-measurement gains and losses from changes in the value of foreign denominated assets and liabilities;
•translation gains and losses on foreign subsidiary financial results that are translated into U.S. dollars, our functional currency, upon consolidation;
•planning risk related to changes in exchange rates between the time we prepare our annual and quarterly forecasts and when actual results occur; and
•the impact of relative exchange rate movements on cross-border travel, principally travel between Europe and the United States.
Depending on the size of the exposures and the relative movements of exchange rates, if we choose not to hedge or fail to hedge effectively our exposure, we could experience a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition. As we have seen in prior periods, in the event of severe volatility in exchange rates, these exposures can increase, and the impact on our results of operations and financial condition can be more pronounced. In addition, the current environment and the increasingly global nature of our business have made hedging these exposures more complex and costly.
To reduce the impact of this earnings volatility, we hedge our foreign currency exposure by entering into foreign currency forward contracts on several of our largest foreign currency exposures, including the Singaporean Dollar, the British Pound Sterling, the Polish Zloty, the Australian Dollar, the Indian Rupee, and the Swedish Krona. Although we have increased and may continue to increase the scope, complexity and duration of our foreign exchange risk management strategy, our current or future hedging activities may not sufficiently protect us from the adverse effects of currency exchange rate movements. Moreover, we make a number of estimates in conducting hedging activities, including in some cases the level of future bookings, cancellations, refunds, customer stay patterns and payments in foreign currencies. In the event those estimates differ significantly from actual results, we could experience greater volatility as a result of our hedging activities.
The terms of our debt covenants could limit our discretion in operating our business and any failure to comply with such covenants could result in the default of all of our debt.
The agreements governing our indebtedness contain and the agreements governing our future indebtedness will likely contain various covenants, including those that restrict our or our subsidiaries’ ability to, among other things:
•incur liens on our property, assets and revenue;
•borrow money, and guarantee or provide other support for the indebtedness of third parties;
•pay dividends or make other distributions on, redeem or repurchase our capital stock;
•prepay, redeem or repurchase certain of our indebtedness;
•enter into certain change of control transactions;
•make investments in entities that we do not control, including joint ventures;
•enter into certain asset sale transactions, including divestiture of certain company assets and divestiture of capital stock of wholly-owned subsidiaries;
•enter into certain transactions with affiliates;
•enter into secured financing arrangements;
•enter into sale and leaseback transactions;
•change our fiscal year; and
•enter into substantially different lines of business.
These covenants may limit our ability to effectively operate our businesses or maximize stockholder value. In addition, our Amended and Restated Credit Agreement requires that we meet certain financial tests, including the maintenance of a leverage ratio and a minimum net worth. Our ability to satisfy these tests may be affected by factors and events beyond our control, and we may be unable to meet such tests in the future.
Any failure to comply with the restrictions of our Amended and Restated Credit Agreement, the indentures governing our senior secured notes due 2023 or any agreement governing our other indebtedness may result in an event of default under those agreements. Such default may allow the creditors to accelerate the related debt, which may trigger cross-acceleration or cross-default provisions in other debt. In addition, lenders may be able to terminate any commitments they had made to supply us with further funds.
The market price of our common stock could decline due to the large number of outstanding shares of our common stock eligible for future sale.
Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market in future offerings, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our common stock to decline. These sales could also make it more difficult for us to sell equity or equity-related securities in the future, at a time and price that we deem appropriate. In addition, the additional sale of our common stock by our officers or directors in the public market, or the perception that these sales may occur, could cause the market price of our common stock to decline.
We may issue shares of our common stock or other securities from time to time as consideration for, or to finance, future acquisitions and investments or for other capital needs. We cannot predict the size of future issuances of our shares or the effect, if any, that future sales and issuances of shares would have on the market price of our common stock. If any such acquisition or investment is significant, the number of shares of common stock or the number or aggregate principal amount, as the case may be, of other securities that we may issue may in turn be substantial and may result in additional dilution to our stockholders. We
may also grant registration rights covering shares of our common stock or other securities that we may issue in connection with any such acquisitions and investments.
To the extent that any of us, our executive officers or directors sell, or indicate an intent to sell, substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline significantly.
Our ability to pay regular dividends to our stockholders is subject to the discretion of our board of directors and may be limited by our holding company structure and applicable provisions of Delaware law.
We intend to continue to pay quarterly cash dividends on our common stock. However, our board of directors may, in its sole discretion, change the amount or frequency of dividends or discontinue the payment of dividends entirely. In addition, because we are a holding company with no material direct operations, we are dependent on loans, dividends and other payments from our operating subsidiaries to generate the funds necessary to pay dividends on our common stock. We expect to cause our subsidiaries to make distributions to us in an amount sufficient for us to pay dividends. However, their ability to make such distributions will be subject to their operating results, cash requirements and financial condition, the applicable provisions of Delaware law that may limit the amount of funds available for distribution and our ability to pay cash dividends, compliance with covenants and financial ratios related to existing or future indebtedness, including under our Amended and Restated Credit Agreement, our senior secured notes due in 2023, and other agreements with third parties. In addition, each of the companies in our corporate chain must manage its assets, liabilities and working capital in order to meet all of its cash obligations, including the payment of dividends or distributions. As a consequence of these various limitations and restrictions, we may not be able to make, or may have to reduce or eliminate, the payment of dividends on our common stock. Any change in the level of our dividends or the suspension of the payment thereof could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
As a company with global operations, we operate in many countries with a variety of sales, administrative, product development and customer service roles provided in these offices.
Americas: Our corporate and business unit headquarters and domestic operations are located in a property which we own in Southlake, Texas, and in two leased offices located in Westlake, Texas. The Westlake leases expire in 2026 and include early termination options in 2022. There are ten additional offices across North America and eight offices across Latin America that serve in various sales, administration, software development and customer service capacities for all our business segments. All of these additional offices are leased.
EMEA: Travel Network has its Europe, the Middle East, and Africa ("EMEA") regional headquarters in London, United Kingdom, with a lease that expires in 2027 and includes an early termination option in 2022. There are 28 additional offices across EMEA that serve in various sales, administration, software development and customer service capacities. All of these additional offices are leased.
APAC: Travel Network, Airline Solutions and Hospitality Solutions have their Asia-Pacific ("APAC") regional operations headquarters in Singapore under a lease that expires in 2024. There are 29 additional offices across APAC that serve in various sales, administration, software development and customer service capacities. All of the additional offices are leased.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
While certain legal proceedings and related indemnification obligations to which we are a party specify the amounts claimed, these claims may not represent reasonably possible losses. Given the inherent uncertainties of litigation, the ultimate outcome of these matters cannot be predicted at this time, nor can the amount of possible loss or range of loss, if any, be reasonably estimated, except in circumstances where an aggregate litigation accrual has been recorded for probable and reasonably estimable loss contingencies. A determination of the amount of accrual required, if any, for these contingencies is made after careful analysis of each matter. The required accrual may change in the future due to new information or developments in each matter or changes in approach such as a change in settlement strategy in dealing with these matters. See “Risk Factors —"We are involved in various legal proceedings which may cause us to incur significant fees, costs and expenses and may result in unfavorable outcomes.”
Antitrust Litigation and Investigations
US Airways Antitrust Litigation
In April 2011, US Airways filed suit against us in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleging violations of the Sherman Act Section 1 (anticompetitive agreements) and Section 2 (monopolization). The complaint was filed fewer than two months after we entered into a new distribution agreement with US Airways. In September 2011, the court dismissed all claims
relating to Section 2. The claims that were not dismissed are claims brought under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, relating to our contracts with US Airways, which US Airways claims contain anticompetitive provisions, and an alleged conspiracy with the other GDSs, allegedly to maintain the industry structure and not to compete for content. We strongly deny all of the allegations made by US Airways.
Sabre filed summary judgment motions in April 2014. In January 2015, the court issued an order granting Sabre's summary judgment motions in part, eliminating a majority of US Airways' alleged damages and rejecting its request for injunctive relief by which US Airways sought to bar Sabre from enforcing certain provisions in our contracts. In September 2015, the court also dismissed US Airways' claim for declaratory relief. In February 2017, US Airways sought reconsideration of the court's opinion dismissing the claim for declaratory relief, which the court denied in March 2017.
The trial on the remaining claims commenced in October 2016. In December 2016, the jury issued a verdict in favor of US Airways with respect to its claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act regarding Sabre's contract with US Airways and awarded it $5 million in single damages. The jury rejected US Airways' claim alleging a conspiracy with the other GDSs. We continue to believe that our business practices and contract terms are lawful.
Based on the jury’s verdict, in March 2017 the court entered final judgment in favor of US Airways in the amount of $15 million, which is three times the jury’s award of $5 million as required by the Sherman Act. As a result of the jury's verdict, US Airways was also entitled to receive reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs under the Sherman Act. As such, it filed a motion seeking approximately $125 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, the amount of which we strongly dispute. In January 2018, the court denied US Airways' motion seeking attorneys' fees and costs, without prejudice.
In the fourth quarter of 2016, we accrued a loss of $32 million, which represented the court's final judgment of $15 million, plus our estimate of $17 million for US Airways' reasonable attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs.
In April 2017, we filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit seeking a reversal of the judgment. US Airways also filed a counter-appeal challenging earlier court orders, including the above-referenced orders dismissing and/or issuing summary judgment as to portions of its claims and damages. In connection with this appeal, we posted an appellate bond equal to the aggregate amount of the $15 million judgment entered plus interest, which stayed the judgment pending the appeal. The Second Circuit heard oral arguments on this matter in December 2018.
In September 2019, the Second Circuit issued its Order and Opinion. The Second Circuit vacated the judgment with respect to US Airways’ claim under Section 1, reversed the trial court’s dismissal of US Airways’ claims relating to Section 2, and remanded the case to district court for a new trial. In addition, the Second Circuit affirmed the trial court’s ruling limiting US Airways’ damages. The judgment in our favor on US Airways' conspiracy claim remains intact. The lawsuit has been remanded to federal court in the Southern District of New York for further proceedings. Currently, no trial date has been set.
As a result of the Second Circuit’s opinion, we believe that the claims associated with this case are not probable; therefore, in the third quarter of 2019, we reversed our previously accrued loss of $32 million and do not have any losses accrued for this matter as of December 31, 2019.
We have and will incur significant fees, costs and expenses for as long as the litigation is ongoing. In addition, litigation by its nature is highly uncertain and fraught with risk, and it is therefore difficult to predict the outcome of any particular matter, including any changes to our business that may be required as a result of the litigation. If favorable resolution of the matter is not reached upon remand, any monetary damages are subject to trebling under the antitrust laws and US Airways would be eligible to be reimbursed by us for its reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees. Depending on the amount of any such judgment, if we do not have sufficient cash on hand, we may be required to seek private or public financing. Depending on the outcome of the litigation, any of these consequences could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Department of Justice Lawsuit on Farelogix Acquisition
On August 20, 2019, the DOJ filed a complaint in federal court in the District of Delaware, seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Sabre from acquiring Farelogix, alleging that the proposed acquisition is likely to substantially lessen competition in violation of federal antitrust law. Sabre disputes the government's allegations and believes the acquisition is pro-competitive and ultimately will be completed. The trial concluded on February 6, 2020 and the trial court has not yet issued its decision. Sabre and Farelogix have extended the termination date of their acquisition agreement to April 30, 2020, allowing time to resolve the challenge by the DOJ. In addition, the CMA has referred its review of the acquisition for a Phase 2 investigation and has published its provisional findings of competition concerns. Under the acquisition agreement, as amended, we have agreed to advance certain attorneys’ fees incurred by Farelogix in responding to certain governmental reviews of the acquisition and in defending against certain antitrust proceedings, which have totaled $20 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. These advances will be applied against the purchase price upon closing. The acquisition agreement, as amended, contains certain customary termination rights, including the right of either party to terminate the acquisition agreement if the acquisition has not occurred by April 30, 2020. We could be obligated to pay Farelogix up to an additional $25 million, either in the form of additional advances or in the form of a termination fee depending on the circumstances.
European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition ("EC") Investigation
On November 23, 2018, the EC announced that it has opened an investigation of us and another GDS to assess whether our respective agreements with airlines and travel agents may restrict competition in breach of European Union antitrust rules. We are fully cooperating with the EC’s investigation and are unable to make any prediction regarding its outcome at this time.
There is no legal deadline for the EC to bring an antitrust investigation to an end, and the duration of the investigation is uncertain. Depending on the findings of the EC, the outcome of the investigation could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. We may incur significant fees, costs and expenses for as long as this investigation is ongoing. We intend to vigorously defend against any allegations of anticompetitive activity by the EC.
Department of Justice Investigation
On May 19, 2011, we received a CID from the DOJ investigating alleged anticompetitive acts related to the airline distribution component of our business. We are fully cooperating with the DOJ investigation and are unable to make any prediction regarding its outcome. The DOJ is also investigating other companies that own GDSs and has sent CIDs to other companies in the travel industry. Based on its findings in the investigation, the DOJ may (i) close the file, (ii) seek a consent decree to remedy issues it believes violate the antitrust laws, or (iii) file suit against us for violating the antitrust laws, seeking injunctive relief. If injunctive relief were granted, depending on its scope, it could affect the manner in which our airline distribution business is operated and potentially force changes to the existing airline distribution business model. Any of these consequences would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. We have not received any communications from the DOJ regarding this matter for several years; however, we have not been notified that this matter is closed.
Indian Income Tax Litigation
We are currently a defendant in income tax litigation brought by the Indian Director of Income Tax (“DIT”) in the Supreme Court of India. The dispute arose in 1999 when the DIT asserted that we have a permanent establishment within the meaning of the Income Tax Treaty between the United States and the Republic of India and accordingly issued tax assessments for assessment years ending March 1998 and March 1999, and later issued further tax assessments for assessment years ending March 2000 through March 2006. The DIT has continued to issue further tax assessments on a similar basis for subsequent years; however, the tax assessments for assessment years ending March 2007 and later are no longer material. We appealed the tax assessments for assessment years ending March 1998 through March 2006 and the Indian Commissioner of Income Tax Appeals returned a mixed verdict. We filed further appeals with the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (“ITAT”). The ITAT ruled in our favor on June 19, 2009 and July 10, 2009, stating that no income would be chargeable to tax for assessment years ending March 1998 and March 1999, and from March 2000 through March 2006. The DIT appealed those decisions to the Delhi High Court, which found in our favor on July 19, 2010. The DIT has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of India. Our case has been listed for hearing with the Supreme Court, and it has not yet been presented. We have appealed the tax assessments for the assessment years ended March 2013 to March 2016 with the ITAT and no trial date has been set for these subsequent years.
In addition, Sabre Asia Pacific Pte Ltd ("SAPPL") is currently a defendant in similar income tax litigation brought by the DIT. The dispute arose when the DIT asserted that SAPPL has a permanent establishment within the meaning of the Income Tax Treaty between Singapore and India and accordingly issued tax assessments for assessment years ending March 2000 through March 2005. SAPPL appealed the tax assessments, and the Indian Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) returned a mixed verdict. SAPPL filed further appeals with the ITAT. The ITAT ruled in SAPPL’s favor, finding that no income would be chargeable to tax for assessment years ending March 2000 through March 2005. The DIT appealed those decisions to the Delhi High Court. No hearing date has been set. The DIT also assessed taxes on a similar basis for assessment years ending March 2006 through March 2016 and appeals for assessment years ending March 2006 through 2016 are pending before the ITAT.
If the DIT were to fully prevail on every claim against us, including SAPPL, we could be subject to taxes, interest and penalties of approximately $45 million as of December 31, 2019. We intend to continue to aggressively defend against each of the foregoing claims. Although we do not believe that the outcome of the proceedings will result in a material impact on our business or financial condition, litigation is by its nature uncertain. We do not believe this outcome is more likely than not and therefore have not made any provisions or recorded any liability for the potential resolution of any of these claims.
Indian Service Tax Litigation
SAPPL's Indian subsidiary is also subject to litigation by the India Director General (Service Tax) ("DGST"), which has assessed the subsidiary for multiple years related to its alleged failure to pay service tax on marketing fees and reimbursements of expenses. Indian courts have returned verdicts favorable to the Indian subsidiary. The DGST has appealed the verdict to the Indian Supreme Court. We do not believe that an adverse outcome is probable and therefore have not made any provisions or recorded any liability for the potential resolution of any of these claims.
Litigation Relating to Routine Proceedings
We are also engaged from time to time in other routine legal and tax proceedings incidental to our business. We do not believe that any of these routine proceedings will have a material impact on the business or our financial condition.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
INFORMATION ABOUT OUR EXECUTIVE OFFICERS
The names and ages of our executive officers as of February 26, 2020, together with certain biographical information, are as follows:
|Sean Menke||51 || ||Chief Executive Officer, President and Director, Sabre|
|Douglas Barnett||60 || ||Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Sabre|
|Wade Jones||54 || ||Executive Vice President, Sabre and President, Travel Network|
|David Shirk||53 || ||Executive Vice President, Sabre and President, Travel Solutions|
|Cem Tanyel||51 || ||Executive Vice President, Sabre and President, Airline Solutions|
|Kimberly Warmbier||58 || ||Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Sabre|
Sean Menke was elected president and CEO effective December 31, 2016. Prior to that, he served as executive vice president and president of Travel Network. Before joining Sabre in October 2015, Mr. Menke served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hawaiian Airlines from October 2014 to October 2015. From 2013 to 2014, he was executive vice president of resources at IHS Inc., a global information technology company. He served as managing partner of Vista Strategic Group, LLC, a consulting firm, from 2012 to 2013 and from 2010 to 2011. From 2011 to 2012, he served as president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Airlines, and from 2007 to 2010 as president and chief executive officer of Frontier Airlines. Frontier Airlines and Pinnacle Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Mr. Menke earned an executive MBA from the University of Denver and dual bachelor of science degrees in Economics and Aviation Management from Ohio State University.
Douglas Barnett is executive vice president and chief financial officer. Prior to joining Sabre in June 2018, Mr. Barnett served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Informatica LLC, a global leader in enterprise cloud data management, since 2016. While there, he was responsible for a number of areas of Informatica’s business, including finance, legal, information technology, human resources and corporate development. From 2013 to 2016, Mr. Barnett served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of TriZetto Corporation, a health care IT company, where he was responsible for all finance-related functions, including accounting, internal audit, banking, investor relations, cash management, internal and external reporting, tax and treasury, as well as human resources, facilities and IT. From 2007 to 2013, Mr. Barnett was managing director, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer of AlixPartners LLP, a global business-advisory firm, where he was responsible for most non-client facing functions at the firm, including accounting, finance, treasury, HR, facilities, internal audit, tax, IT and other operations for 16 global locations. Prior to that, he held financial leadership roles at UGS Corporation, Colfax Corporation and Giddings & Lewis, Inc. Mr. Barnett is a current board member of ECI Software Solutions. Mr. Barnett received a Masters of Management degree from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois.
Wade Jones is executive vice president of Sabre and president of Travel Network. He joined Sabre in 2015 in the product, marketing and strategy role for Travel Network globally. From April of 2012 to September of 2014 he was senior vice president and general manager of Deem’s syndicated commerce business. From 2011 to 2012, Mr. Jones served as a founder and chief executive officer of Haystack Ventures, LLC, which filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in 2012. Prior to joining Sabre, Mr. Jones spent more than 10 years with Barclaycard, leading the company’s U.K partnership business that provides, co-branded credit card, and loyalty programs for other companies across the travel, retail, financial services, and other industries. He received his master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University.
David Shirk is executive vice president of Sabre and president of Travel Solutions. Mr. Shirk previously served as executive vice president of Sabre and president of Airline Solutions from June 2017 to July 2018. Prior to joining Sabre, Mr. Shirk served as president at Kony, Inc., an industry leader in mobile application development. He previously served as general manager and vice president at Computer Services Corp. (CSC), where he led the company’s software, services, and business process outsourcing division. Prior to joining CSC, Mr. Shirk was senior vice president of industry solutions and chief marketing officer for the Enterprise Business division of HP. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from The Ohio State University.
Cem Tanyel is executive vice president of Sabre and president of Airline Solutions. Prior to joining Sabre in September 2018, Mr. Tanyel served as executive vice president and general manager, Global Services at Kony from October 2016 to October 2018. From 2015 to 2016, he was chief services officer and senior vice president, consulting and service delivery of Trizetto Corp. Mr. Tanyel served as Vice president and general manager, healthcare and life sciences global solutions at CSC Corp. from 2012 to 2015, and he served as senior vice president, research and development, health systems enterprise solutions at McKesson Corp. from 2010 to 2012.
Kimberly Warmbier is executive vice president and chief people officer. Prior to joining Sabre in June 2018, Ms. Warmbier served as executive vice president of Dean Foods from November 2012 to December 2017 and served as senior vice president of human resources for Fresh Dairy Direct of Dean Foods from May 2012 to November 2012. She was promoted to her current position in November 2012. Prior to Dean Foods, Ms. Warmbier served as the senior vice president, human resources, for J.C. Penney Company, Inc. from November 2009 to December 2011 where she led human resource professionals supporting more than 150,000 associates in supply chain, stores and corporate. Her experience also includes more than 20 years in the consumer packaged goods industry with PepsiCo, Inc. where she led the HR PepsiCo Customer teams for the company's five North American sales divisions including Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Tropicana, Quaker Oats and Gatorade. Ms. Warmbier is a director of Daseke, Inc., a leading provider of transportation and logistics solutions. She currently serves on the North Texas Food Bank Board of Directors and is a member of their NTFB Finance and Executive Committees. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of Girl Scouts Northeast Texas, a nonprofit organization, where she served on the CEO Selection Committee.
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Our common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “SABR.” As of February 21, 2020, there were 107 stockholders of record of our common stock. We expect to continue to pay quarterly cash dividends on our common stock, subject to declaration of our board of directors. The amount of future cash dividends, if any, will depend upon, among other things, our future operations and earnings, capital requirements and surplus, general financial condition, contractual restrictions, number of shares of common stock outstanding and other factors the board of directors may deem relevant. The timing and amount of future dividend payments will be at the discretion of our board of directors. Our board of directors has declared a cash dividend of $0.14 per share of common stock which will be paid on March 30, 2020 to stockholders of record as of March 20, 2020. See Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Dividends.” There were no shares repurchased during the fourth quarter of 2019. See Item 7, "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Recent Events Impacting Our Liquidity and Capital Resources—Share Repurchase Program."
Stock Performance Graph
The following graph shows a comparison from December 31, 2014 through December 31, 2019 of the cumulative total return for our common stock, the Nasdaq Composite Index ("NASDAQ Composite"), the Standard & Poor's 500 Stock Index ("S&P 500") and the Standard & Poor's Software and Services Index ("S&P 500/Software & Services") (collectively, the "Indices"). The graph assumes that $100 was invested at the market close on December 31, 2014 in the common stock of Sabre Corporation and the Indices as well as reinvestments of dividends. The stock price performance of the following graph is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.
The stock price performance depicted in the above graph is not necessarily indicative of future price performance. The stock performance graph shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or to be “filed” with the SEC, nor shall such information be incorporated by reference into any future filing by us under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act, except to the extent that we specifically incorporate the graph by reference in such filing.
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The consolidated statements of operations data and consolidated statements of cash flows data for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2018 and 2017 and the consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019 and 2018 are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements contained in Item 8, “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data,” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The consolidated statements of operations data and consolidated statements of cash flows data for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015 and the consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017, 2016, and 2015 are derived from audited consolidated financial statements not included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected in the future. All amounts presented below are in thousands, except per share amounts.
| ||Year Ended December 31,|
|Consolidated Statements of Operations Data:|| || || || || |
|$||3,974,988 || ||$||3,866,956 || ||$||3,598,484 || ||$||3,373,387 || ||$||2,960,896 || |
Operating income (1)
|363,417 || ||562,016 || ||493,440 || ||459,572 || ||459,769 || |
Income from continuing operations (1)
|164,312 || ||340,921 || ||249,576 || ||241,390 || ||234,555 || |
(Loss) Income from discontinued operations, net of tax (1)
|(1,766)|| ||1,739 || ||(1,932)|| ||5,549 || ||314,408 || |
Net income attributable to common stockholders (1)
|158,592 || ||337,531 || ||242,531 || ||242,562 || ||545,482 || |
|Net income per share attributable to common stockholders:|| || || || || |
|$||0.57 || ||$||1.23 || ||$||0.87 || ||$||0.87 || ||$||2.00 || |
|$||0.57 || ||$||1.22 || ||$||0.87 || ||$||0.86 || ||$||1.95 || |
|Weighted-average common shares outstanding:|| || || || || |
|Basic||274,168 || ||275,235 || ||276,893 || ||277,546 || ||273,139 || |
|Diluted||276,217 || ||277,518 || ||278,320 || ||282,752 || ||280,067 || |
|Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows Data:|| || || || || |
|Cash provided by operating activities||$||581,260 || ||$||724,797 || ||$||678,033 || ||$||699,400 || ||$||529,207 || |
|Cash used in investing activities||(243,026)|| ||(275,259)|| ||(317,525)|| ||(445,808)|| ||(729,041)|| |
|Cash (used in) provided by financing activities||(409,721)|| ||(306,506)|| ||(356,780)|| ||(190,025)|| ||93,144 || |
|Additions to property and equipment||115,166 || ||283,940 || ||316,436 || ||327,647 || ||286,697 || |
|Cash payments for interest||157,648 || ||156,041 || ||149,572 || ||151,495 || ||154,307 || |
|Other Financial Data:|| || || || || || || || || || |
Adjusted Gross Profit (1)
|$||1,391,806 || ||$||1,521,408 || ||$||1,500,186 || ||$||1,460,675 || ||$||1,316,820 || |
Adjusted Operating Income (1)
|513,408 || ||701,432 || ||706,149 || ||720,361 || ||653,105 || |
Adjusted Net Income (1)
|279,215 || ||427,570 || ||390,118 || ||370,937 || ||308,072 || |
Adjusted EBITDA (1)
|946,360 || ||1,124,390 || ||1,078,571 || ||1,046,646 || ||941,587 || |
|Free Cash Flow||466,094 || ||440,857 || ||361,597 || ||371,753 || ||242,510 || |
|Key Metrics:|| || || || || || || || || || |
|Travel Network|| || || || || || || || || || |
|Direct Billable Bookings - Air||499,111 || ||491,820 || ||462,381 || ||445,050 || ||384,309 || |
|Direct Billable Bookings - Lodging, Ground and Sea||67,197 || ||66,454 || ||62,443 || ||60,421 || ||58,414 || |
|Total Direct Billable Bookings||566,308 || ||558,274 || ||524,824 || ||505,471 || ||442,723 || |
|Airline Solutions Passengers Boarded||741,107 || ||752,548 || ||772,149 || ||789,260 || ||584,876 || |
|Hospitality Solutions Central Reservations System Transactions||108,482 || ||88,655 || ||N/A || ||N/A || ||N/A || |
(1) In the first quarter of 2018, we adopted the comprehensive update to revenue recognition guidance in accordance with Accounting Standards Codification ("ASC") 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers ("ASC 606"), on a prospective basis from January 1, 2018. See Note 2. Revenue from Contracts with Customers with Customers, to our consolidated financial statements.
| ||As of December 31,|
|Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:|| || || || || |
|Cash and cash equivalents||$||436,176 || ||$||509,265 || ||$||361,381 || ||$||364,114 || ||$||321,132 || |
Total assets(1) (2) (3)
|5,689,957 || ||5,806,381 || ||5,649,364 || ||5,724,570 || ||5,393,627 || |
Long-term debt (3)
|3,261,821 || ||3,337,467 || ||3,398,731 || ||3,276,281 || ||3,169,344 || |
Working capital surplus (deficit) (2) (3)
|96,377 || ||169,235 || ||(11,455)|| ||(312,977)|| ||(222,400)|| |
|Noncontrolling interest||8,588 || ||7,205 || ||5,198 || ||2,579 || ||1,438 || |
Total stockholders’ equity (2)
|947,669 || ||974,271 || ||698,500 || ||625,615 || ||484,140 || |
(1) In the first quarter of 2019, we adopted new lease accounting guidance on a modified retrospective basis in accordance with ASC 842, Leases. See Note 11. Leases, to our consolidated financial statements.
(2) In the first quarter of 2018, we adopted the comprehensive update to revenue recognition guidance, ASC 606, on a prospective basis from January 1, 2018. See Note 2. Revenue from Contracts with Customers , to our consolidated financial statements.
(3) In the fourth quarter of 2015, we adopted new accounting standards that changed the presentation of deferred tax assets and liabilities and debt issuance costs and were applied retrospectively.
Non-GAAP Financial Measures
The following table sets forth the reconciliation of net income (loss) attributable to common stockholders to Adjusted Net Income, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted Operating Income (in thousands):
| ||Year Ended December 31,|
|Net income attributable to common stockholders||$||158,592 || ||$||337,531 || ||$||242,531 || ||$||242,562 || ||$||545,482 || |
|Loss (Income) from discontinued operations, net of tax||1,766 || ||(1,739)|| ||1,932 || ||(5,549)|| ||(314,408)|| |
Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests(1)
|3,954 || ||5,129 || ||5,113 || ||4,377 || ||3,481 || |
|Income from continuing operations||164,312 || ||340,921 || ||249,576 || ||241,390 || ||234,555 || |
|Adjustments:|| || || || || |
Impairment and related charges(2)
|— || ||— || ||81,112 || ||— || ||— || |
|64,604 || ||68,008 || ||95,860 || ||143,425 || ||108,121 || |
Loss on extinguishment of debt
|— || ||633 || ||1,012 || ||3,683 || ||38,783 || |
|9,432 || ||8,509 || ||(36,530)|| ||(27,617)|| ||(91,377)|| |
Restructuring and other costs(6)
|— || ||— || ||23,975 || ||18,286 || ||9,256 || |
|41,037 || ||3,266 || ||— || ||779 || ||14,437 || |
Litigation costs, net(8)
|(24,579)|| ||8,323 || ||(35,507)|| ||46,995 || ||16,709 || |
|66,885 || ||57,263 || ||44,689 || ||48,524 || ||29,971 || |
Tax impact of net income adjustments(9), (10)
|(42,476)|| ||(59,353)|| ||(34,069)|| ||(104,528)|| ||(52,383)|| |
|Adjusted Net Income from continuing operations||$||279,215 || ||$||427,570 || ||$||390,118 || ||$||370,937 || ||$||308,072 || |
|Adjusted Net Income from continuing operations per share||$||1.01 || ||$||1.54 || ||$||1.40 || ||$||1.31 || ||$||1.10 || |
|Diluted weighted-average common shares outstanding||276,217 || ||277,518 || ||278,320 || ||282,752 || ||280,067 || |
|Adjusted Net Income from continuing operations||$||279,215 || ||$||427,570 || ||$||390,118 || ||$||370,937 || ||$||308,072 || |
|Adjustments:|| || || || || |
Depreciation and amortization of property and equipment(3b)
|310,573 || ||303,612 || ||264,880 || ||233,303 || ||213,520 || |
Amortization of capitalized implementation costs(3c)
|39,444 || ||41,724 || ||40,131 || ||37,258 || ||31,441 || |
Amortization of upfront incentive consideration(4)
|82,935 || ||77,622 || ||67,411 || ||55,724 || ||43,521 || |
|Interest expense, net||156,391 || ||157,017 || ||153,925 || ||158,251 || ||173,298 || |
|Remaining provision for income taxes||77,802 || ||116,845 || ||162,106 || ||191,173 || ||171,735 || |
|Adjusted EBITDA||$||946,360 || ||$||1,124,390 || ||$||1,078,571 || ||$||1,046,646 || ||$||941,587 || |
Depreciation and amortization(3)
|414,621 || ||413,344 || ||400,871 || ||413,986 || ||351,480 || |
Amortization of upfront incentive consideration(4)
|82,935 || ||77,622 || ||67,411 || ||55,724 || ||43,521 || |
Acquisition related amortization(3a)
|(64,604)|| ||(68,008)|| ||(95,860)|| ||(143,425)|| ||(106,519)|| |
|Adjusted Operating Income||$||513,408 || ||$||701,432 || ||$||706,149 || ||$||720,361 || ||$||653,105 || |
The following tables set forth the reconciliation of operating income (loss) in our statement of operations to Adjusted Gross Profit, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted Operating Income (Loss) by business segment (in thousands):
|Year Ended December 31, 2019|
|Operating income (loss)||$||646,794 || ||$||80,428 || ||$||(21,632)|| ||$||(342,173)|| ||$||363,417 || |
|Selling, general and administrative||178,664 || ||85,801 || ||38,597 || ||273,506 || ||576,568 || |
|Cost of revenue adjustments:|
Depreciation and amortization(3)
|108,302 || ||160,381 || ||47,877 || ||24,329 || ||340,889 || |
Amortization of upfront incentive consideration(4)
|82,935 || ||— || ||— || ||— || ||82,935 || |
|Stock-based compensation||— || ||— || ||— || ||27,997 || ||27,997 || |
|Adjusted Gross Profit||1,016,695 || ||326,610 || ||64,842 || ||(16,341)|| ||1,391,806 || |
|Selling, general and administrative||(178,664)|| ||(85,801)|| ||(38,597)|| ||(273,506)|| ||(576,568)|| |
|Joint venture equity income||2,044 || ||— || ||— || ||— || ||2,044 || |
|Selling, general and administrative adjustments:|
Depreciation and amortization(3)
|12,781 || ||10,633 || ||5,221 || ||45,097 || ||73,732 || |
|— || ||— || ||— || ||41,037 || ||41,037 || |
Litigation costs, net(8)
|— || ||— || ||— || ||(24,579)|| ||(24,579)|| |
|Stock-based compensation||— || ||— || ||— || ||38,888 || ||38,888 || |
|Adjusted EBITDA||852,856 || ||251,442 || ||31,466 || ||(189,404)|| ||946,360 || |
Depreciation and amortization(3)
|121,083 || ||171,014 || ||53,098 || ||69,426 || ||414,621 || |
Amortization of upfront incentive consideration(4)
|82,935 || ||— || ||— || ||— || ||82,935 || |
|— || ||— || ||— || ||(64,604)|| ||(64,604)|| |
|Adjusted Operating Income (Loss)||$||648,838 || ||$||80,428 || ||$||(21,632)|| ||$||(194,226)|| ||$||513,408 || |
|Year Ended December 31, 2018|
|Operating income (loss)||$||753,255 || ||$||111,146 || ||$||12,881 || ||$||(315,266)|| ||$||562,016 || |