Priceline Swallows OpenTable, But the Tab Looks Rich

OpenTable looks like a great acquisition for Priceline, but the price looks awfully rich.

Jun 13, 2014 at 10:15AM

Following a period in which the stock market's upward trajectory appeared unstoppable, investors are rediscovering that stocks do, on occasion, fall in price, with Iraq's descent into civil war just one catalyst for that process this week. After three consecutive days of losses, U.S. stocks are slightly lower on Friday morning, with the benchmark S&P 500 and the narrower Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) both just under breakeven at 10:15 a.m. EDT. Still, that won't derail a booming mergers and acquisitions market; this morning, it's Priceline's (NASDAQ:PCLN) turn to make a meal of restaurant booking platform OpenTable (NASDAQ:OPEN).


Source: Wikipedia.

Priceline has agreed to acquire OpenTable for $103 per share, valuing the restaurant reservation service at $2.6 billion. That price represents a 46% premium to yesterday's closing price; the stock is actually trading through the offer price this morning, which suggests the market sees the possibility of a third party coming forward with a higher offer.

Both observations square with what appears to be rising interest in this category. Today's announcement comes roughly one month after a similar transaction in which TripAdvisor acquired online restaurant booking platform La Fourchette, which hosts 12,000 restaurants across Europe.

Furthermore, news of today's deal has jolted the shares of Yelp, GrubHub, and Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN), which were up between 4% and 14% at 9:51 a.m. EDT. In the case of Groupon, this looks like a reflexive (or poorly reasoned) bid. Yes, it and OpenTable  have names that are the aggregation of two words. Yes, both companies do something with the Internet. However, unlike Groupon, OpenTable has a mature business model around which it has built a moat; as a result, it has been nicely profitable for the past five years (and in seven of the past nine years). OpenTable's net profit margin was a ruddy 18% last year, while Groupon remained unprofitable.

Priceline CEO Darren Huston said in a statement that "OpenTable is a great match for The Priceline Group. They provide us with a natural extension into restaurant marketing services." I can't disagree with that -- although the business models are slightly different, both companies provide a convenient platform (in the case of Priceline, it's technically a marketplace) to match consumers with service providers. OpenTable's system seats 15 million diners per month at 31,000 restaurants.

OpenTable is an excellent fit with Priceline and will provide a new growth channel. My only concern on the deal is the price: As of yesterday's close (i.e., before any acquisition premium), OpenTable was already valued at 45 times next year's earnings-per-share estimate. Tack on the premium and you get a valuation that looks very hard to digest, even for a company as well run as Priceline.

And speaking of a "moat", Warren Buffett just bought nearly 9 million shares of this company
Imagine a company that rents a very specific and valuable piece of machinery for $41,000 per hour (That's almost as much as the average American makes in a year!). And Warren Buffett is so confident in this company's can't-live-without-it business model, he just loaded up on 8.8 million shares. An exclusive, brand-new Motley Fool report details this company that already has over 50% market share. Just click HERE to discover more about this industry-leading stock... and join Buffett in his quest for a veritable landslide of profits!

Alex Dumortier, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends OpenTable and Priceline Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of Priceline Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information