Scotland’s Skyscanner sold to Chinese travel giant Ctrip for £1.4bn

Ctrip, China’s biggest travel agency, announced the deal for the Edinburgh-based company on Thursday morning, reports The Telegraph.

Skyscanner, which compares prices for flights, hotels and car rentals, was one of a handful of British “unicorns” – technology start-ups valued at more than $1bn.

It was set up in 2001 in the wake of the dotcom bust by IT entrepreneurs Gareth Williams, Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes, and has since grown to more than 60 million monthly users and annual revenues of over £120 million.

Ctrip said Skyscanner would continue to be run independently, with Mr Williams staying at the helm. Being owned by the company will give Skyscanner a route into China, which many Western internet companies have struggled to break into.

“Ctrip is the clear market leader in China and a company we can learn a huge amount from,” Mr Williams said. “Today’s news takes Skyscanner one step closer to our goal of making travel search as simple as possible for travellers around the world.

Skyscanner, which was valued at at $1.6bn (£1.2bn) in a January funding round, had been exploring a sale or IPO in recent months, and the acquisition represents the latest British tech start-up to fall into foreign hands, following the sales of SwiftKey, ARM Holdings, Magic Pony and DeepMind, bought by Microsoft, SoftBank, Twitter and Google respectively.

In Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor Philip Hammond promised to tackle “the longstanding problem of our fastest growing technology firms being snapped up by bigger companies, rather than growing to scale”, and announced £400m of British Business Bank funding for investment in tech companies.

The deal is now set to complete by the end of the year. Ctrip, which is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, merged with Qunar, another travel company, earlier this year. The deal gave the Chinese internet giant Baidu a 25pc stake in the company.