Lindblad Expeditions and Capitol Acquisition Corporation II have announced plans to merge to form Lindblad Expeditions Holdings Inc, a vehicle that will be prepared for flotation on the NASDAQ. The merger values the business at $439 million, of which Capitol will hold 50 per cent and Lindblad a little under 49 per cent.

Lindblad is in the expedition sector of the travel market, currently the fastest growing area, and owns six ships (operating others under charter from time to time) in addition to land-based tours. As part of the deal, it was announced that two new ships will be built for Lindblad as likely replacements for National Geographic Sea Bird and Sea Lion, which are both small ships carrying around 70 passengers and dating from 1982.

Delivery of the new ships is expected to be in 2017 and 2018. The link with National Geographic will be unaffected by the merger, and the current agreement runs until 2025.

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