Skyscanner becomes $1 billion business

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner's chief executive and co-founder. Picture: Esme Allen

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner's chief executive and co-founder. Picture: Esme Allen

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SCOTLAND can lay claim to its first $1 billion (£650 million) internet business after travel search engine Skyscanner unveiled another sharp rise in turnover yesterday.

The Edinburgh-based firm, which was founded in 2003 as a flight search specialist, said its growth had been underpinned by its global expansion strategy and a push into areas such as hotel bookings and car hire.

Revenues in 2014 leapt by 42 per cent to £93m, though that was a slowdown from the doubling of sales reported a year earlier.

The latest results were underlined by record visitor numbers to the website, including a 77 per cent jump in people using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Last year, the company launched its first hotel and car hire apps globally, while it also acquired a Budapest-based app developer to accelerate the growth of its in-house development team.

It said a significant area of focus last year was China, where the Scots firm bought local metasearch company Youbibi to establish its own product development team for China. Over the course of 2014, there was a 61 per cent increase in unique monthly visitors as well as a 162 per cent jump in mobile visitors from Chinese travellers and the world’s second biggest economy will continue to be a key part of the group’s growth strategy.

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner’s chief executive and co-founder said: “When I started Skyscanner nearly 12 years ago, my aspiration was to become Scotland’s first $1bn internet economy business. Not only have we reached that target, but we still see ourselves as being in the early stages of our development.

“We’re a truly global company, with a talented team of over 35 different nationalities, enabling us to meet the needs the travellers around the world.

“Over 80 per cent of visitors to our site now come from outside our home market and our focus on meeting the needs of travellers wherever they are in the world will continue to drive everything we do here at Skyscanner.”

In late 2013, the firm was valued at some $800m when Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital took a stake in the business.

Skyscanner now employs more than 600 staff across its nine offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Barcelona, Beijing, Budapest, Miami, Shenzhen, Singapore and Sofia. Its apps are available in some 30 languages.

Shane Corstorphine, the group’s chief financial officer, described 2014 as a “transformational” year for the company with record numbers of visitors to its website and apps.

He added: “Our primary focus for the year has been investing for future growth, and this approach has been making an impact for us sooner than anticipated.

“While our revenues continue to be led primarily by flights, the addition of new hotel and car hire products, as well as the creation of our Skyscanner for Business team, has had a key role to play in our growth, which we anticipate will increase over the next year.

“We also escalated our product development in China, and our mobile development capabilities globally through the acquisitions of Youbibi and [Budapest-based] Distinction.

“Thanks to effective integration and hard work from a talented team, we are already delivering our new website to travellers in China, while mobile will continue to be central to our strategic plans this year.”

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