Many a jaw dropping on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean today following a report in the Wall Street Journal speculating that Google is interested in buying Opodo.
The report [sub required, alas] says the sale of the European online travel agency by its current owner Amadeus is attracting all sorts of suitors, including Expedia and a range of private equity firms.
But the headline grabber is clearly putting Google into the fray.
Google, inevitably, says it will not comment on rumour or speculation. Opodo has yet to respond to queries.
The WSJ says:
"Pursuing Opodo could carry risks for Google because US regulators already worry that the search giant may gain too much clout in the online travel industry through ITA. Industry insiders have said they believed the European Commission would also review the deal."
This is probably not the only or most important wrinkle in the story. Google has consistently said, pre and post the proposed acquisition of ITA Software, is it not interested in the transactional side of the travel sector, stating that it just wants to make search better for users - or words to that effect.
"Fulfilment is messy for a start," a Google exec privately said over the summer.
Thus far the only company to publicly state its interest in Opodo is French rival GoVoyages, although both Amadeus and Opodo continuallyrefuse to acknowledge that the agency is even up for sale.
But, as one sceptic says, perhaps throwing Google's name into the fray is simply a canny move by bankers handling the sale to up the price.
Update: The alternative viewpoint - Why Google buying a consumer travel site is not a mad idea.