Fairfax Media has sold the Stayz Group to US holiday rentals company HomeAway for $220 million – more than had been forecast by industry analysts, which had valued the business at around $140 million. Stayz is the largest online holiday rentals business in Asia-Pacific with 48,000 listings and three main web portals: Stayz.com.au, Rent-a-Home.com.au, and TakeaBreak.com.au.

Before the acquisition, HomeAway was #2 in the Australian market with less than 20,000 listings, ahead of Wotif.com with 2500 and Airbnb with 3800.

There’s been speculation for several months that Stayz was up for sale as Fairfax Media, which bought the business for $12.7 million in 2005, seeks to raise cash and reduce its debt.

The Stayz business has been exceptionally strong, however growth has slowed quite dramatically at the market leader over the past 12 months.

JP Morgan estimates that the compound annual growth rate at Stayz fell from a 3-year average of 38% to the end of Financial Year 2012 to just 10% year on year on year growth in FY13.

“Moreover, EBITDA margins had compressed by 4.7ppts from 56.3% in FY12 to 51.6% in FY13.

“Like Wotif, Stayz is also dominated by domestic travel with only 7% of nights booked on the Stayz Group websites from overseas.”

“HomeAway is absolutely the perfect partner for us,” says Anton Stanish, General Manager for Stayz.

Mr Stanish will remain in charge of Stayz, while the business and its 40-person team will continue to operate from its Sydney headquarters.

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