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Priceline Group Is No More -- Long Live Booking Holdings

By Nicholas Rossolillo - Feb 21, 2018 at 2:39PM

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A name change for the online travel company signals a shift in focus going forward.

Online travel booking company Priceline Group (BKNG -2.37%) announced that it'll be changing its name. The business best known in the U.S. for its namesake site and commercials starring William Shatner as "the negotiator" has decided it has outgrown that image.

It may come as a surprise to some, but the change makes a lot of sense.

A woman sitting in a chair on a white sand tropical beach. A child is playing in the water in front of her.

Image source: Getty Images.

An accurate descriptor

The Priceline.com business will continue on, but the parent organization will become Booking Holdings. The change is effective immediately, and the stock will begin trading under symbol BKNG starting Feb. 27, 2018.

The main reason for the change is to reflect what has become the company's biggest money maker: Booking.com. CEO Chris Fogel had this to say about the new name:

Today, our largest brand is Booking.com, which has more than 1.5 million properties, averages over one million bookings per day and produces a significant majority of Booking Holdings' gross bookings and operating profit. We are at a defining moment in our company's history -- making this change to more accurately align our company name with our largest business, connect our collective brands to a name that reflects their shared capability to help customers book amazing experiences, as well as better reflect the truly global operation that we have become today. 

The evolution of online booking

Priceline started out as a single website operating in the U.S. around the dawn of the internet 20 years ago. While Booking.com has surpassed the original business in scale, the company is also comprised of several other sites including Agoda, KAYAK, Rentalcars.com, and OpenTable. Taken as a whole, Booking Holdings is the world leader in travel and accommodations planning with over $10 billion in revenue last year.

Despite its size, top and bottom line growth continues in the double digits. As of last report, revenue and earnings per share adjusted for one-time items were up 18% and 17%, respectively. Adding available properties for its customers has been a primary catalyst in recent years, in addition to expanding advertising for Booking.com into new countries.

A subtle shift has been made, though. Travel search engines like KAYAK and last summer's acquisition of Momondo -- which offers a similar service -- have helped diversify operations. OpenTable, the leader in online restaurant reservation management, has helped vary the look of Booking Holdings even further. That business also continues to grow by double digits.

Now, we have a new name signaling to investors that this business is about more than travel accommodations. The corporate mission statement is "helping people experience the world". That could mean renting a room, a car, or booking a flight, but it could mean a lot of other things, too. This push into "experiences" versus travel is supported by studies showing people, especially younger consumers, are increasingly interested in creating memories than they are in anything else. 

While much conversation has centered around the Booking.com business -- adding unique properties like apartments and homes for rent -- Priceline is known for making acquisitions and expanding into new areas. With mounting competition from the likes of Trip Advisor and private company Airbnb, this name change would seem to indicate investors can expect more diversification of world experience booking services going forward.

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