Skyscanner sold in latest Chinese swoop on UK tech sector

Online travel firm Ctrip is set to buy UK travel site Skyscanner for £1.4 billion, a move intended to grow the global reach of the Chinese travel giant.

Chinese Ctrip buys Skyscanner – tech UK
Edinburgh-based travel search website Skyscanner is being bought by Chinese travel giant Ctrip in a £1.4 billion deal, it was announced on Thursday.

Ctrip to boost global reach 

Ctrip said the takeover – the largest in the UK by a Chinese company – would boost its global reach, adding Skyscanner's strength across Europe to a growing presence in the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region.Skyscanner, which employs more than 800 people in 10 offices worldwide, including one in Beijing, was launched in 2003 by three students who wanted to make it easier to book good-value skiing holidays. It is now available in 30 languages and has about 60 million users a month.James Jianzhang Liang, executive chairman at Ctrip, said, "This acquisition will strengthen long-term growth drivers for both companies. Skyscanner will complement our positioning at a global scale, and we will leverage our experience, technology and booking capabilities to help Skyscanner." 

Skyscanner will remain independent

Skyscanner will continue to operate as an independent company and the existing management structure will remain intact. Gareth Williams, Skyscanner chief executive and co-founder, said the deal took his firm "one step closer to our goal of making travel search as simple as possible for travellers around the world". 

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He added, "This is an important and exciting step in our journey of accelerated global growth. "Skyscanner will remain operationally independent and continue to deliver the Skyscanner products that travellers know and love. Ctrip and Skyscanner share a common view – that organising travel has a long way to go to being solved. To do so requires powerful technology and a traveller-first approach."

Latest in a series of Chinese acquisitions

The deal marks the latest in a series of acquisitions by Chinese companies in the UK technology sector. Most recently, Framestore, the Oscar-winning UK visual effects company behind such movies as Gravity and the Harry Potter series, was bought by China's Cultural Investment Holdings this month in a £150 million deal. Dominic O'Connell, BBC business reporter, commented, "Two days after Theresa May promised the CBI a more interventionist industrial policy, one which might stop important British companies being sold to foreign rivals, along comes a deal to expose the shortcomings of such a promise. "Skyscanner sells travel online, but it is much more than just another travel website; its technology frequently sees it cited as one of Britain's top technology companies, and it is one of the UK's few "unicorns" – youngish tech companies with valuations north of $1 billion. "When pundits try and come up with candidates to be the 'British Google', Skyscanner is a name that frequently comes up.It is hard to see, however, what Theresa May could have done – even once her new industrial policy is in place – to stop the sale."Like most British tech companies, Skyscanner has a small army of investors, ranging from traditional private-equity investors to technology specialists like Sequoia Capital. It would be hard to argue that there is some national interest in interfering to keep it in British hands, and to do so would interfere with the basic rights of investors to sell their property."

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