Skyscanner said to mull possible sale or flotation

Skyscanner is led by chief executive and co-founder Gareth Williams. Picture: Esme Allen

Skyscanner is led by chief executive and co-founder Gareth Williams. Picture: Esme Allen

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Skyscanner, the Edinburgh-based travel search engine valued at more than £1 billion, is considering a possible sale or initial public offering (IPO), it was reported today.

The company, one of Scotland’s highest-profile technology start-ups, is also said to have held talks with investors over raising fresh funds, according to Bloomberg.

In January, Skyscanner – led by chief executive and co-founder Gareth Williams – raised £128 million from five new investors, including Edinburgh fund manager Baillie Gifford and joint venture partner Yahoo Japan. The move, which valued the firm at about $1.6 billion (£1.3bn), was aimed at accelerating its growth in the £322bn online travel market.

READ MORE: Skyscanner valued at £1.1bn in fresh funding round

A spokeswoman for the company, based at Edinburgh’s city-centre Quartermile regeneration scheme, declined to comment today on the reports of a potential IPO or sale of the business.

Edinburgh is also home to fantasy sports firm FanDuel, another rare example of a Scottish technology “unicorn” – a start-up with a valuation of more than $1bn. FanDuel recently dismissed reports that it was in merger talks with US rival DraftKings as “total speculation”.

Skyscanner, founded in 2001, employs more than 800 people and has ten offices around the world, including Glasgow, Barcelona, Beijing, Budapest, London, Miami, Shenzhen, Singapore and Sofia.

Along with Baillie Gifford and Yahoo Japan, the new investors that came on board in January included global fund manager Artemis, Malaysian government strategic investment fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad and European private equity firm Vitruvian Partners. They joined existing backers Scottish Equity Partners (SEP) and US-based Sequoia Capital.

SEP, which is Skyscanner’s largest shareholder – having invested £2.5m for a 40 per cent stake in the business in 2007 – also declined to comment today.

Skyscanner has been without a chief financial officer since April, when the previous holder of that role, Shane Corstorphine, moved to Miami to become general manager of its operations in the Americas. The company is currently recruiting for his successor and in the meantime Colin McLellan – who joined in 2013 as group financial controller – is serving as its financial director. The chartered accountant was formerly interim chief executive of Skyscanner Japan.

For the 12 months to the end of December 2015, the travel search engine reported revenues of £120m – an increase of 28 per cent compared with 2014.

Stripping out the effect of “unfavourable” currency exchange rates, revenues grew 34 per cent, and Skyscanner said sales gained momentum in the second half of the year, with a surge of 36 per cent. Underlying earnings rose 5 per cent to £22m.

Visitors to the firm’s website in 2015 grew 48 per cent over the previous year, hitting a record monthly total of 50 million. Mobile traffic jumped 60 per cent, representing more than half of all traffic.

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