Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

With Growth Slowing, Acquisitions Are Key to Booking Holdings' Future

By Nicholas Rossolillo - May 18, 2019 at 10:45AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Building a one-stop travel shop is the endgame.

Booking Holdings (BKNG -0.44%) -- formerly Priceline Group -- just turned in one of its most sluggish performances since the bubble popped at the turn of the millennium. A strong U.S. dollar was a big reason revenue fell 3% during the first quarter of 2019, but even excluding currency exchange effects yielded a mere 3% year-over-year increase. Not exactly an encouraging number for what is supposed to be a high-growth internet enterprise.

A slower rate of increase is not so unexpected, though, as Booking is now a huge company and the global leader in online travel accommodations. After many years of double-digit expansion, the company has indicated that building a single service to handle all legs of a trip will keep the growth engine firing. Acquisitions could be the key to making that happen.

A return to what worked before

Booking isn't new to the world of acquisitions. When it was still known as the Priceline Group, the internet company scooped up quite a few rivals and nurtured them into global travel leaders. One is now the company's namesake -- -- which it took over in 2005 when it was the hotel reservation leader in Europe at the time. Now is the world's largest site for finding a place to sleep.

Booking did it again in 2007 when it scooped up, another leader in global accommodations and one of the top travel sites in Asia. The trend has continued over the years, with Booking targeting and taking over fast-expanding start-ups and other disruptors in the world of online travel.


Year Acquired

Amount Paid



$1.8 billion



$2.6 billion



Not disclosed



$20 million

AS Digital


Not disclosed

Momondo Group


$550 million



Not disclosed



Not disclosed



Not disclosed

Data source: Booking Holdings and Crunchbase.

A man and woman relaxing in beach chairs on a tropical beach.

Image source: Getty Images.

Sopping up the new and unique

It's clear that Booking has never deviated from its strategy of making acquisitions, but those takeovers have gotten smaller over the years -- especially relative to Booking's massive size. These small subsidiaries are unlikely to move the needle by themselves, especially considering the more than $14 billion in sales Booking brought in over the last trailing 12 months. Nevertheless, CEO Glenn Fogel alluded to acquisitions playing a key role in his company's strategy during the first-quarter conference call. Is a big deal in the works, or will it be more smaller buyouts? We'll have to wait and see, but Fogel did offer this information:

I think the best way to look at this is over the past couple of years, where we've been spending our money, bringing in things that we didn't really have, and I'll just point to our most recent acquisition, which we just closed a couple of days ago, Venga, small acquisition, but it brings in a CRM platform for our OpenTable operation with restaurants. And it makes the idea of how we can provide a personalized experience for a consumer, a diner, it makes it much more powerful in terms of the overall restaurant operating system. Now that is part of our overall strategy of the connected trip. And we've talked about this in the past about providing a service, a value to a traveler. There's much more than just going onto a site and booking a hotel. That's what we're trying to do, is create all these different things, fix them together in a way that provides significantly more value than any single service could do on its own. 

Big or small, what Booking is really looking for when it targets a competitor is technology or a service it doesn't already have. The idea is to build out a connected vacation experience, a single-stop for all traveler needs. Others are racing to the same conclusion. Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL 2.37%)(GOOG 2.15%) recently launched a new revamped Google Trips -- which combines Google Flights, hotel search, events, and attractions -- to handle all aspects of a vacation. American Express (AXP 3.79%) also announced it is purchasing restaurant reservation booking and customer relationship management platform Resy. That's a direct move against Booking Holdings' subsidiary OpenTable and its Venga addition.

As for the recent revenue decline at Booking Holdings, management thinks it will be transitory, with a return to growth expected in quarter two. Still, sales are slowing -- at least for the time being -- and the growing arms race to capture travelers' loyalty would indicate the path forward won't be easy. At least Booking is helping lead the charge toward a more connected vacation experience.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Booking Holdings Stock Quote
Booking Holdings
$2,106.65 (-0.44%) $-9.25
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$2,229.76 (2.37%) $51.60
American Express Company Stock Quote
American Express Company
$159.04 (3.79%) $5.80
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$2,233.33 (2.15%) $47.07

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/24/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.