Holding company Leading Associates is looking to acquire more tour operators after acquiring cycling specialist Freewheel Holidays in October.

Leading Associates director Paul Cresswell said the company which was founded in October 2005 with former Page and Moy directors David Short and Tony Moy wants to buy and develop small niche tour operators.

He said: “We want to focus on companies working in specialist areas rather than the mainstream as all three of us have worked in the mainstream sector in the past and it is probably not the route to take any more in terms of future development.

“Instead our plan is to build up small group of companies that have a different attitude and are working in the niche sector where the growth is.”

Cresswell said this had led to the Freewheel Holidays deal, adding: “Cycling holidays are a niche market but it is one that’s growing very fast as there is a big push for people to take exercise and it is also becoming a green issue.”

While he would not reveal the cost of the acquisition or the operator’s financial figures, he said it’s programme has been extended beyond July and August to the shoulder seasons to target 50% growth for this year and increase profitability.

Cresswell added further profits will be achieved by using Leading Associates’ own backroom functions such as human resources and accounting to cut costs.

He believes the current credit crunch should have little effect on the company’s plans for future acquisitions.

He said: “We’re looking to buy companies that already show profitability and so we think the banks will support that.”