Japanese giant buys France’s top travel comparison site

Japan’s largest e-commerce retailer Rakuten is eyeing up a move into the European travel search space following its €200m purchase of France’s Price Minister last week.

Price Minister launched in France in 2000, and currently pulls in 11m unique users per month. Its dedicated travel brand, voyagermoinscher.com, is France’s number one price comparison site in the travel sector.

The new owners said: “Price Minister…operates highly successful businesses such as online travel price comparison and real estate classified sites. Rakuten intends to leverage these businesses for its international expansion strategy.”

Price Minister has been live in the UK since 2009, although the UK site currently does not have a dedicated travel channel. A Spanish version launched two years earlier and features a travel channel in partnership with govolo.com.

In its Japanese home market, Rakuten sells over $3bn worth of products online. In 2009, its dedicated travel business saw an operating profit of YEN8.8bn (£65m) on revenues of YEN19.3bn (£142m). Total transaction value for the year was YEN300bn (£2.2bn). The site booked more than 30m room nights.

Last month Rakuten paid $250m for US-based online retailer buy.com as part of its global expansion plans. It has also entered into a joint venture with baidu.com, China’s largest search engine.

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