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Travel the Corporate Way

Online travel operation Expedia, moving to compete forcefully in the corporate travel arena, is acquiring Seattle-based business travel firm Metropolitan Travel to help with the effort.

Bellevue, Wash.-based Expedia also launched a new corporate area on its Web site, although at the moment it offers little except a phone number for Metropolitan Travel and a sign-up function for those who want get to get updates down the road.

Financial terms of the deal to acquire privately held Metropolitan were not disclosed, although Expedia said that it expects the deal "to be slightly accretive" to earnings beginning with the third quarter.

Expedia said Metropolitan will provide a core operation, around which Expedia will develop a dedicated corporate travel technology and services business, expected to launch in-full by year-end, employing Expedia's proprietary search and pricing platform. The operation will include a 24-hour corporate travel customer service center.

"... we will provide a single service and technology solution for what businesses have historically obtained from separate providers," said Byron Bishop, senior vice president of corporate travel for Expedia, will head the new corporate travel group.

There is of course increasing competition for corporate travel. Orbitz, for instance, touted corporate travel planners as a beneficiary of its deal with AQUA Software Products Inc. to make its Web-only fares available to conventional travel agents.

Expedia has long had a separate business travel area, but not as sharply focused as the new operation. The Sabre Group's Travelocity online operation also has a business travel area aimed at travel managers and others who fly on business.

Meanwhile, a privately held company called Outtask in Alexandria, Va., which markets travel and expense management software, launched a new product called Cliqbook XA, a corporate travel solution that lets travel agencies offer their clients off-line access to Web direct fares.

The product builds on the company's core Cliqbook and Vinnet travel and expense solutions.