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Skyscanner sold to China’s Ctrip in £1.4bn deal

The travel search website Skyscanner has been bought by Chinese counterpart Ctrip.com in a deal worth £1.4bn.

Ctrip.com International, China’s biggest online travel company, said it had agreed to buy Scotland-based Skyscanner Holdings.

Skyscanner, a result of chief executive and co-founder Gareth Williams’s frustration with finding cheap flights, enables users to compare prices from different travel sites when searching for plane tickets, hotels, and rental cars.

The website serves 60 million monthly active users and is available in more than 30 languages.

Skyscanner had reportedly been exploring a sale or an initial public offering.

The company was valued at US$1.6bn (£1.2bn) in a funding round in January, when it raised £128m from a group of investors that included Malaysia’s sovereign fund, Khazanah Nasional, and Yahoo Japan.

Skyscanner’s current management team would continue to manage its operations independently after the close of the deal by the end of 2016, Ctrip said.

The deal would mainly consist of cash, with the rest in Ctrip ordinary shares and loan notes.

Nasdaq-listed Ctrip, partly owned by the Chinese search company Baidu, provides online booking for airline and railway tickets as well as hotels, and describes itself as China’s largest travel company.

It generated more than 350bn yuan (£41bn) in gross merchandise value in 2015, the firm said on its website, referring to a measure of online sales.

Gareth Williams, chief executive of Skyscanner, said: “Ctrip is the clear market leader in China and a company we can learn a huge amount from.”

The acquisition by Ctrip took Skyscanner “one step closer to our goal of making travel search as simple as possible for travellers around the world”, he said.

Ctrip co-founder and executive chairman Liang Jianzhang said: “This acquisition will strengthen long-term growth drivers for both companies. Skyscanner will complement our positioning at a global scale.”

Shanghai-based Ctrip merged with another major Chinese online agency Qunar last year to create the country’s biggest internet travel service.

The deal gave Baidu, which controlled Qunar, a 25% stake in Ctrip.

The Skyscanner deal, already approved by boards of both firms, is still subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

With Reuters

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