Chinese tech giant swoops on Skyscanner

Skyscanner, the Edinburgh-based travel search website and so-called tech unicorn, is being bought by Chinese giant in a deal worth about £1.4 billion.

Skyscanner is ranked as a tech unicorn, with a value of more than $1bn. Picture: Contributed, which is China’s biggest online travel service, said the management of Skyscanner would remain in place and run the company independently.

The Edinburgh firm’s services are available in more than 30 languages and the company has some 60 million monthly active users. It was launched in 2003 to let users compare prices from different travel sites when searching for flights, hotels and rental cars.

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Skyscanner chief executive and co-founder Gareth Williams said the deal took his firm “one step closer to our goal of making travel search as simple as possible for travellers around the world”.

The firm employs hundreds of staff, with offices worldwide, including in Glasgow and London.

Williams added: “Skyscanner will remain operationally independent and continue to deliver the Skyscanner products that travellers know and love.”

Ctrip said the takeover would boost its global reach, adding Skyscanner’s strength across Europe and a growing presence in the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region.

James Jianzhang Liang, executive chairman at Ctrip, said: “This acquisition will strengthen long-term growth drivers for both companies.

“Skyscanner will complement our positioning at a global scale, and we will leverage our experience, technology and booking capabilities to help Skyscanner.”

The Chinese group expects to complete the takeover by the end of the year.

Law firm Pinsent Masons said it had provided advice on the sale of Skyscanner in what is believed to be the largest corporate transaction in Scotland this year.

The Pinsent Masons team was led by Alan Diamond and Rosalie Chadwick. Diamond said: “It has been great to watch Skyscanner grow from a start-up to one of Scotland’s most successful businesses.

“It’s a tremendous business and proof that entrepreneurship is alive and well in Scotland. Ctrip is an impressive business and to have attracted a major Chinese partner demonstrates both the quality of the Skyscanner business and the global reputation for innovation the UK tech sector enjoys.”

Skyscanner’s largest shareholder is Scottish Equity Partners (SEP).

Calum Paterson, managing Partner of SEP and a member of Skyscanner’s board of directors, said “We are pleased to have played our part in helping Skyscanner become one of the world’s most exciting travel search companies.

“Ctrip is the ideal partner to enable the company to extend its global reach, grow even more rapidly and continue to deliver a fantastic product that is greatly admired by travellers across the world.

“We are particularly pleased that Skyscanner will continue to be headquartered in Edinburgh and to operate independently.”