Friday, August 10, 2007
Rakuten and Ctrip part company and commence battle
Japanese online powerhouse Rakuten Travel has announced that it is selling its 20.3% stake in Chinese powerhouse Ctrip for $575mm - pocketing more than $470mm in profits in three years (Reuters). Good deal. Rakuten was the largest single shareholder. Profit is not the only motive. Rakuten has been pushing its own brand in China for a at least three years. The natural expansion plans for Rakuten given its inventory and regional location has been into Korea and China. It was only a matter of time before that Chinese expansion saw Rakuten (the brand) battling head to head with Ctrip. The challenge of course in China is the one I discuss often - the fact that "online travel" really means "call centre travel" meaning that it is not a clean and easy expansion of the current Rakuten model. Not a simple matter of more hotels in China and more translated pages. But with $470mm in profits in the bank you can buy a lot of seats in a Chinese call centre.