SYDNEY — Online travel giant Expedia Monday launched a AU$700 million (US$658 million) takeover bid for Australian hotel booking website Wotif.com and its other businesses, the companies said. Under the deal, Expedia Group will pay AU$3.06 per share to acquire all of the Wotif Group as the U.S.-based company widens its exposure to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific travel market. Wotif shareholders will also receive a special dividend of 24 cents per share with the total AU$3.30, a 25 percent premium to the last traded price.
Shares in the Australian company soared nearly 25 percent to AU$3.29 when it resumed trading Monday. “Wotif Group is well positioned in the Asia-Pacific region with a portfolio of leading travel brands,” said Expedia chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi. “This acquisition will allow both companies to continue driving growth opportunities by leveraging the unique strengths each brings to the table.” Wotif Group operates online travel brands in the Asia-Pacific region including Wotif.com, lastminute.com.au, travel.com.au, LateStays.com, and GoDo.com.au, while Expedia.com is the world’s largest full-service online travel agency. Wotif founders Graeme Wood and Andrew Bice and the board have agreed to vote the 20.2 percent of shares they control in favor of the proposal and recommended fellow stock holders do the same. Wotif chairman Dick McIlwain said it was the best way to leverage Wotif’s brand in the global travel market. “As a board, we have carefully assessed the changing dynamics of the markets in which we operate, and the uncertainties and risks that we would face if we were to continue as an independent company,” he said. “With that in mind, we believe that shareholder value will be maximized and that Wotif Group will be best positioned for the future, through the proposed transaction.”