Travel firm Skyscanner buys out Chinese rival

Skyscanner's chief executive Gareth Williams. Picture: Esme Allen
Skyscanner's chief executive Gareth Williams. Picture: Esme Allen
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HOMEGROWN travel firm Skyscanner – which employs a Capital workforce of 300 – has bought out a Chinese rival in what is believed to be a multi-million pound deal.

The online comparison website for holidaymakers has just acquired Youbibi – a move described as “hugely significant” for the Leith-founded business.

Skyscanner allows travellers to compare flight costs across airline companies and aggregates the results on screen.

The takeover means the firm has extended its reach into the Far East and is a unique reversal of the prevailing trend for Chinese investment in Europe.

Founded in 2003, Skyscanner began life in a small office with a single employee but now boasts a global workforce of more than 500 with offices dotted around the world.

Its headquarters are located at the former ERI site, Quartermile.

Professor Colin Adams, director of commercialisation at Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics, estimated the deal would be in the “millions range” though details have not been confirmed.

“This is hugely significant,” he said. “There are very few European, let alone Scottish, world players in this field.

“It is very unusual to see a UK company with this kind of determination to win. We have a large number of small start-up companies but now we have one which is a global player.”

Prof Adams said the move was a boon for Edinburgh’s technology cluster which was the “largest outside London”.

Skyscanner launched a branch in China two years ago and claims the number of Chinese visitors to the site increased tenfold.

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said: “This acquisition brings the best of both worlds with Skyscanner’s international coverage and Youbibi’s domestic travel search and intimate knowledge of the Chinese traveller.

“We have been incredibly impressed by the talented team at Youbibi. They share our dedication to both mobile and web innovation and we have some exciting plans for how we can develop products that make the travel planning journey even easier for travellers in China and further afield.”

Youbibi co-founder and CEO, Steven Pang said: “We built our website and app with the goal of making it as easy as possible for travellers across China to find their ideal holiday. We are proud of the technology that we have developed and, by bringing this together on our platform with Skyscanner’s global flight expertise, we believe we can create a really exciting travel search tool for all Chinese travellers. Our team is thrilled to become a part of Skyscanner and join their global travel journey.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com