Stock Markets Rise and Priceline Looks to Expand Booking Dominance

U.S. stock markets are up slightly today, in part because President Barack Obama said he won't send troops back to Iraq, where insurgents are pushing toward the capital. Fear that the U.S. would get involved helped push the markets down yesterday, so there was a little relief from his comments.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was up 0.11% late in the day, driven by Intel's 6.6% bounce on the chipmaker's announcement that higher than expected PC sales would lead to higher revenue in this quarter. That pushed Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard higher and the tech bounce was on.

One tech company that didn't enjoy the gains but made big news was Priceline  (NASDAQ: PCLN  ) , which is buying online restaurant reservation service OpenTable (UNKNOWN: OPEN.DL  ) for $2.6 billion.

Why Priceline was shopping today
Priceline's $103 per share offer was an incredible 46% premium to OpenTable's closing price yesterday, and the stock shot up 47% as a result. OpenTable's shares were actually trading for more than $104 late in the day, an indication that some traders think the price could be increased before the deal closes. That's speculation and a risky bet for investors, but what's interesting is why the online travel discount specialist would want to pay so much for a company with $190 million in revenue and just $33.4 million in profit last year.  

CEO Darren Huston correctly told investors that travelers are also diners, so the synergies between the two companies are natural. If Priceline can get you to book airfare or a hotel on one of its platforms it could easily line up a reservation at a local restaurant as well.  

But the company will also be able to bring OpenTable's platform to Europe, where Priceline has a large business. Priceline has been successful in integrating and expanding acquisitions such as Kayak.com in the past, so there's reason to think that OpenTable could do just as well.

Sometimes with acquisitions it's more important to look at how a company will integrate an acquisition rather than what it's buying the company for. Priceline can gain more contact points and revenue opportunities with customers through the acquisition, so it's worth paying a premium price. Building out the same infrastructure would have been extremely expensive and OpenTable is the premier name in online reservations. So while Priceline's shares may be down 3% in trading after the deal was announced, I think it's a solid strategic move for the company.

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