Priceline says some of the proceeds from its just-announced $500 million convertible-note offering may be used for corporate acquisitons, leading Susquehanna Financial Group to speculate that Priceline engineered the move because it may have felt it needed to match Expedia's $1 billion warchest for future acquisitions.
Expedia and Priceline, of course, are at loggerheads across Europe and Asia over their respective hotel businesses. And, both companies would admit that Priceline has been the more solid executioner, so to speak.
In a note to investors from financial analysts Marianne Wolk and Malindi Davies, Susquehanna Financial Group argues that Priceline has a history of acquisitions, including Booking.com and Agoda, and that its future M & A activity may include broadening Priceline's reach in Asia and Latin America, or diversifying its business by picking up a mobile company.
Susquehanna says a metasearch acquisition is a possibility, but less of a priority for Priceline.
Kayak would be "the only real target" for Priceline among the metasearchers, says Susquehanna, but such a transaction is doubtful because Priceline already gets a whole bunch of traffic from Kayak.
In fact, Susquehanna says, in January "Kayak was Priceline's fifth largest source of traffic worldwide."
Officials from both Expedia and Priceline have stated they would be open to opportunistic acquisitions in 2010, and now the two online kingmakers are building their respective warchests to make that happen.
Susquehanna's views are consistent with the prevailing belief that consolidation among major online travel agencies is not on the immediate agenda.