The quick deal by Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN) to buy Kayak Software (NASDAQ:KYAK) by $1.8 billion, or $40/share, represents a hefty premium for those who got into the Kayak IPO earlier this year for $26/share.
But does it mean anything more? Tnooz, a travel tech site, has analyzed the deal, and sees it putting enormous pressure on "traditional" travel sites, that basically let you search for airfares, hotel reservations or rental cars, because Priceline and Kayak have, together and separately, pioneered new business models for the space - reverse auctions in Priceline's case and meta-search in the case of Kayak.
In other words, this is an industry ripe for further consolidation.
If you want to speculate on that, take a look at Orbitz (NYSE:OWW). The company has been beaten down steadily since its 2007 debut at $15/share and now trades at just $2.21. It was originally established as an alliance of major airlines' booking systems, which were used by travel agents threatened by the rise of such sites as Travelocity and Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), and thus had a technology platform that would have been charitably described as obsolete.
But Orbitz does have some useful brands, like CheapTickets. It has a global footprint. Its current platform is based on Linux and uses open source extensively. It even has something of a relationship with Southwest Airlines (SWA), which has been pushing its own Web site almost exclusively. In other words, there are some undervalued assets there that could be exploited and turned into something worthwhile.
Orbitz has never recovered from the Great Recession, but it still books over $750 million in revenue each year, and is breaking even. Rival Expedia, meanwhile, is five times larger and profitable. A $3/share bid for Orbitz would be a hefty premium for shareholders and might be considered by investors as a fair response to the Priceline-Kayak deal.
There are other potential bidders - Travelocity and Hotwire are the names most often mentioned - but they are privately held.
There is irony in all this. Orbitz' launch was delayed by antitrust concerns, as governments wondered whether the airlines behind it would use their market power to dominate the space. Now the product of that launch is the industry's weak sister, but maybe you can make some money on the bones.