Expedia to spin off TripAdvisor

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Leading online travel agency Expedia has announced (PDF) it plans to spin off its TripAdvisor business in a tax-free, all-stock deal that will enable the ad-based TripAdvisor to grow more quickly, while enabling Expedia to focus on improving its products and better compete with rivals like Priceline.com.

Under the deal, TripAdvisor’s domestic and international operations (as well as 18 other travel media and advertising brands) would spin off into its own publicly-traded company. Expedia itself would continue operating so-called transaction brands like Expedia itself, as well as Hotels.com, Hotwire, and carrentals.com.

Although Expedia’s business currently account for most of the the current company’s income, industry watchers generally believe TripAdvisor’s ad-based travel site business is the next high-growth segment of the industry. By spinning it off into a separate company, Expedia chairman Barry Diller apparently hopes to attract investment that might otherwise balk at investing in the larger—and slower-growing—Expedia. Expedia has been facing stiff competition from the likes of Priceline.com, particularly in international markets. By spinning off TripAdvisor, Expedia hopes to unlock hidden value in the company and show earnings growth of its own, since it won’t have to sink money into developing TripAdvisor.

The split is subject to a number of conditions and must be approved by Expedia’s board of directors, but the company expects the spin-off to be completed by the third quarter of 2011.

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