Priceline Group: acquisition spree is not that prolific
The Priceline Group may have been extremely active to some in the investment and acquisition markets in recent years – but it doesn’t think so.
Since 2013 the company has spent at least $5.15 billion on a variety of companies, making it by far the most hungry travel company in online travel in this era.
Leading the pack was the $2.6 billion acquisition of OpenTable in 2014, followed by the 2013 purchase of Kayak for $1.8 billion.
Investments have included two tranches of $500 million and $250 million in Ctrip in 2014 and 2015 respectively, plus $60 million into Brazilian online travel agency HotelUrbano.
Then there are the undisclosed acquisitions of digital marketing specialist Buuteeq, distribution system Hotel Ninjas, restaurant software provider AS Digital, revenue management tool PriceMatch and loyalty scheme platform RocketMiles.
It looks busy from the outside.
But Adrian Currie, senior vice president for corporate development with the group, has a different opinion.
Speaking at the WebinTravel conference in Singapore this week, Currie says the the reality is that “this is not very many acquisitions”.
Perhaps Currie is right, when you’ve got a market cap in the region of $70 billion and took gross bookings to the value of $50 billion for 2014.
But the company is extremely structured in the way way it targets and then utilises its buying and investment power.
And there is ALWAYS some kind of masterplan in play.
Take its undisclosed acquisitions in the B2B businesses for hotels – it was interesting – but, now, hardly surprising – to see that pretty quickly after the purchases of Buuteeq and Hotel Ninjas that a totally new wing of the company was being created: Booking Suite.
The reason that it took the step was because it could see opportunities with hotels beyond just giving them consumer-facing distribution through Booking.com.
“Hotels have legacy systems that haven’t caught up with the rest of the tech advancements elsewhere. We have now given them cloud-based platforms.”
Yet what can companies that catch the eye of the Priceline Group expect if they find themselves part of the portfolio?
They will certainly find themselves part of a regime which tests, tests and tests (and few more tests thrown in for good measure) everything the group does.
For example, Currie says, across the group there are some 15,000 individual tests carried out every year, handled by more than 600 engineers.
Of course, the chances of being another Buuteeq or PriceMatch are low (and Priceline Group will never say what area it is targeting next), but Currie says there are three characteristics around its acquisitions: the right place, the right time, and the right people.
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