'800-pound gorilla' buys Orbitz; Expedia adds brands in deal worth $1.34B.

Byline: Niamh Ring and Antonia Massa

Expedia Inc., the online-travel booking service, agreed to acquire Orbitz Worldwide Inc. for $1.34 billion in cash, adding brands such as CheapTickets and ebookers to take on industry leader Priceline Group Inc.

Expedia said it would pay $12 a share to add consumer travel brands such as HotelClub, as well as business-to-business sites such as Orbitz Partner Network. The deal represents a premium of 25 percent to Orbitz's closing price Wednesday. The transaction is valued at about $1.6 billion including net debt, the companies said in a statement Thursday.

The online-travel industry has seen a boom in mergers and acquisitions recently.

Priceline, the largest online-travel company, last year bought a minority stake in Ctrip.com International Ltd. and bought restaurant-reservations website company OpenTable Inc. for about $2.5 billion.

Travelocity purchase

Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia agreed last month to acquire Sabre Corp.'s Travelocity for $280 million in cash in an effort to bulk up against Priceline and other competitors.

With its latest deal, Expedia can "remain the eight hundred pound gorilla in the industry,'' said Daniel Kurnos, an analyst at Benchmark Co. "There...

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