When Microsoft filed to take its online travel site, Expedia, public, it
looked like another big win for Redmond.
But the Web is never easy – even for Microsoft.
To counter the move from Microsoft, Sabre Holdings announced a blockbuster
merger between its online unit Travelocity and
In fact, the new Travelocity will actually be the third largest e-tailer
(eBay is #2 and Amazon #1). In all, the site will have over 17 million
This is definitely great news for Travelocity. The market for online travel
is expected to amount to $7.8 billion in transactions in 1999, according to
Forrester Research. This is supposed to grow to $32 billion by 2002.
Here’s how the deal works: Current shareholders will trade one share of
stock for a new share in Travelocity.com, which will be the new entity. The
ticker symbol will be TVLY. It will be 70% owned by Sabre and 30% owned by
existing Preview Travel shareholders. What’s more, Sabre will provide a
$50 million cash infusion. The deal is expected to close in the first
quarter of 2000.
The merger makes lots of sense. Sabre has become the central nervous system
of the airline industry, as it is the dominant reservation system.
Actually, many believe that it is a monopoly.
But Sabre did something else important this week; that is, it finalized a
deal with AOL, to become the exclusive reservations provider for the next
five years. Sabre has agreed to pay AOL $200 million.
Travelocity also has distribution deals with [email protected] and Disney’s Go.
As for Preview Travel, it has its own core assets. The company, for
example, has agreements with Lycos, Gannett’s USA Today and [email protected]
Also, Preview Travel is strong in the categories of cruises and travel
packages, whereas Travelocity is strong in airlines and auto travel.
In the past few weeks, Preview Travel has been red-hot, increasing nearly
250%. Eventually, the stock will cool-off, especially as Expedia gets
closer to its IPO.
So, it would be a good idea to wait to buy Preview Travel, say several
months after the Expedia IPO.
After the merger is completed next year, we will begin to see the synergies
of the deal pay off, making the new Travelocity an attractive long-term
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