Airbnb is being tipped as favourite suitor for UK holiday rental operators such as Hoseasons, James Villa Holidays and cottages.com put up for sale by Wyndham Worldwide.
The online room-sharing giant was reported to be closing in on a $1 billion takeover of the group of upmarket brands, tightening its grip over the global travel market.
Airbnb is vying for Wyndham’s European villa rentals division with several of the world’s largest private equity firms, including Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners.
Sources close to the deal suggested that the online room-sharing giant was serious in its interest and is leading the pack of bidders, The Sunday Times reported.
The portfolio of property rental sites has been put up for sale by the US hotel empire behind the Ramada and Days Inn chains.
A string of takeovers, including German competitor Accoleo, city guide NabeWise, question-and-answer platform Localmind and crowdfunding start-up Tilt, are bringing Airbnb into competition with the traditional luxury travel industry.
Airbnb’s largest acquisition so far was this year’s $300 million purchase of Canadian villa rental company Luxury Retreats International, that specialises in high-end villa rentals and concierge services in destinations including the Caribbean.
Wyndham’s decision to sell the European villa business is a by-product of a broader strategic shift. The $11.5 billion business revealed plans in August to split itself into two new listed companies: Wyndham Hotel Group, a pure hotel business, and Wyndham Vacation Ownership, a timeshare operator.
The European villa business did not fit neatly with either portfolio, so it hired bankers from Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank to find a buyer.
Wyndham Worldwide chairman and CEO Stephen Holmes said at the time: “After a comprehensive review process, the board of directors has determined that a spin-off of the hotel business and the combination of Wyndham Vacation
Ownership with [timeshare business] RCI is the best structure to unlock shareholder value and enable strong growth across the businesses.
“We will work with the leadership of our European rental organisations, which have outstanding brands in their regional markets, to explore options to fully realise their future growth potential.”
Sources have said that Wyndham “doesn’t really want” to sell to Airbnb, but that the Californian company may be in a position to offer the best price.
Advisory firm PJT Partners is said to be working with Airbnb on its bid. Airbnb declined to comment.