Scottish travel site Skyscanner is considering a stock market listing or an acquisition, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the situation.
The Edinburgh-headquartered company, founded in 2003 by Gareth Williams, Bonamy Grimes, and Barry Smith, allows people to find and book flights, hotels, and cars through more than 1,200 partners via its online search engine.
The 14-year-old company, which attracts over 50 million travellers a month, raised £128 million in January, valuing it at over £1 billion and making it one of two Scottish tech “unicorns,” along with fantasy sports platform Fanduel.
Roughly a month before Skyscanner’s January funding round, Stuart Paterson, a partner at Scottish Equity Partners and an investor in Skyscanner, told Business Insider: “I think the aim now is an IPO [initial public offering] in 2017. That’s what the company is planning for.”
Scottish Equity Partners backed Skyscanner with £2.5 million in 2007 for a 40% stake in the company. At the time, Skycanner’s annual revenues were less than £1 million, according to Paterson. Today they’re over £100 million. Scottish Equity Partners has seen its stake in Skyscanner diluted down to around 5% over the years but an IPO still represents a significant return on its initial investment.
“We have a lot of emerging companies that are doing extremely well but the one that has had the most impressive performance to date has been Skyscanner,” Paterson said over a coffee in Shoreditch. “That business is doing north of 10 billion [pounds] of ticket sales for flights. It’s over 700 employees. It’s making tens of millions [of pounds] of profit. It’s a very viable business. What’s interesting is even at the scale it’s at now, the growth rate is accelerating.”
In addition to a possible IPO or sale, Skyscanner is also considering raising further financing, according to one of Bloomberg’s anonymous sources.
Silicon Valley venture capital giant Sequoia — a firm that has backed Google, Apple, and Facebook — has also invested in Skyscanner. The firm invested an undisclosed amount in 2013 at a $800 million (£529 million) valuation, according to tnooz. Sequoia chairman Sir Michael Moritz sits on the board.
“We’ve invested in search related businesses in America for a long time and we’ve invested in travel businesses so it was fairly natural that Skyscanner hit our radar screen a few years ago,” Moritz told Business Insider at the opening of Skyscanner’s new London office in November, where he praised the company’s operations in China, a region he is particularly bullish about.
At the time of the office opening, former Amazon exec Bryan Dove, now head of Skyscanner’s new London engineering hub and SVP of engineering at Skyscanner, said: “If you look at the metrics, Skyscanner has been consistently growing from a revenue perspective and an EBITA [earnings before interest, taxes, and amortisation]. I know there are some rumours out there, we certainly don’t comment on rumours. From a company perspective, we continue to be focused on our users and our products.”
Other Skyscanner investors include fund manager Artemis, investment manager Baillie Gifford, Malaysian government fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad, European investor Vitruvian Partners, and Yahoo Japan.
Skyscanner declined to comment.