RealTime IT News

Diller's InterActive Buys France's Anyway.com

Barry Diller's appetite for online travel properties is taking on a distinctly French flavor.

On Monday, InterActiveCorp. said it is buying Anyway.com, the Paris-based subsidiary of Canadian packaged tour operator Transat A.T. Inc. The deal is said to be worth close to $63 million and is expected to close by the end of this week.

Anyway.com is the third largest online travel site in France with annual booking of more than $123 million, and more than 100 employees, primarily based in Paris.

Anyway.com has focused on the discount travel market in France, and the purchase is in keeping with InterActiveCorp's stated strategy to aggressively expand in the global online travel market.

In a related development, Expedia said it is increasing its stake in a French joint venture with Voyages-sncf.com. The French state-owned railway operator Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer is Expedia's partner in the venture, and it will be increasing its stake from 47 percent to 49.9 percent.

Expedia has said it will launch Expedia.fr, its French online travel site in 2004.

IAC is trying to build its IAC Travel brand, with Expedia the main plank, and several of its other newly-acquired online travel properties, which include Hotels.com, Interval International, TV Travel Shop and most recently Hotwire. IAC's other businesses, include HSN, Ticketmaster, Citysearch, Match.com and its uDate.com, online dating service and LendingTree.

But one of Diller's main online properties is making some cutbacks, Ticketmaster, the online sports and concert ticket services, said last week that it would be closing its Virginia Beach call center, which will eliminate 573 jobs. Ticketmaster now operates 19 call centers worldwide and sold more than 95 million tickets for more than $2 billion in 2002.

Last week, Barry Diller, chairman and CEO of InterActiveCorp, speaking on a panel at the American Magazine Conference near Palm Springs, Calif., said that he believes the Internet business is still "at its very beginning."

Diller said claims that he is a "visionary" were pretentious, and that he detests the term "e-commerce."

He said he reacts to "instincts and curiosity" when making business decisions.

More details concerning the financial performance of Diller's many recent online travel acquisitions will be disclosed on the morning of November 5, when the company reports its third quarter financial results.,

Orbitz and Travelocity are the main competitors to Diller's IAC Travel, and its primary brand Expedia.

Orbitz recently said it expected to sell its common share for $22, but did not say how many shares it planned to offer. Orbitz has already applied to be listed on the Nasdaq stock market under the Nasdaq symbol: ORBZ. No date has been given for the company's plan to go public.

Back in May 2002, Orbitz filed for an IPO of up to $125 million of its shares, but has delayed its public offering. Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston, Legg Mason Wood Walker and Thomas Weisel have been listed as underwriters for the Orbitz offering.