The deal was announced at the close of the public financial markets today in New York.
The transaction values Kayak at $1.8 billion ($1.65 billion net of cash acquired, says a statement) or $40 per share of Kayak, with Priceline paying “approximately $500 million of the consideration in cash and $1.3 billion in equity and assumed stock options”.
The board of both companies have “unanimously approved the transaction”, the statement continues, but a vote of Kayak’s shareholders and regulatory approvals will take place shortly.
The deal is expected to close by late in the first quarter of 2013.
It also eclipses by some considerable distance the other major deal to take place in the past few years in travel technology – that of Google’s acquisition of ITA SoftwareÂ in the summer of 2010 for $700 million.
Kayak’s existing management team will remain in place and will run the company as an independent unit within the Priceline Group.
Priceline CEO and president Jeff Boyd says:
“Kayak has built a strong brand in online travel research and their track record of profitable growth is demonstrative of their popularity with consumers and value to advertisers,
“Kayak also has world class technology and a tradition of innovation in building great user interfaces across multiple platforms and devices.”
Perhaps central to the strategy behind the deal is in the global expansion of the Kayak brand.
Priceline says it can assist Kayak “toÂ build a global online travel brand”, the one wrinkly area in an otherwise mostly successful Kayak story.
Despite growing quickly (including buying Sidestep) and then pretty much dominating the US travel search scene through the 2000s and up to its IPO this year, Kayak has not made much of a dent outside of North America.
Kayak bought European travel search brand Swoodoo in early-2010 for an undisclosed fee, but elsewhere in Europe it has struggled against the likes of Skyscanner et al.
Given Priceline’s extraordinary success with acquisitions such as that of Booking.com (considered by some to be the most profitable travel deal of the 2000s), perhaps Kayak’s rivals elsewhere around the world will finally consider it a significant threat.
Kayak CEO and co-founder Steve Hafner adds:
“Paul English and I started Kayak eight years ago to create the best place to plan and book travel.
“We’re excited to join the world’s premier online travel company. The Priceline Group’s global reach and expertise will accelerate our growth and help us further develop as a company.”
So, if international is to become a focus, what does one of Kayak’s significant competitors think about the deal?
Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams says:
“I’m delighted to see the success of Steve Hafner and Paul English and the Kayak team. Online travel is hugely competitive and yet they have helped transform the market and create benefits for travellers and shareholders alike.
“ITA was a good acquisition for Google and I have no doubt Kayak will be a great Priceline brand. At Skyscanner we relish the ever increasing competitive challenge to be relevant, useful, fast and comprehensive to all travellers worldwide.”