NASDAQ-listed vacation rental site HomeAway has acquired Stayz, an Australia-based vacation rental service and market leader in the region, for approximately $198 million in an all-cash transaction, the company is announcing today. The move includes Stayz Group sites Stayz.com.au, Rentahome.com.au, TakeABreak.com.au, and YesBookIt, and brings an additional 33,000 Australian vacation rental properties to HomeAway. HomeAway bought the Stayz Group from Fairfax Digital, a division of Fairfax Media Limited, owner of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, which itself purchased the company in 2005 for $12.7 million. Stayz had generated AU$25.4 million in revenue in its last fiscal year 2013 (ended in June 2013), the majority of which is generated through its commission-based business model, HomeAway notes. Stayz' traffic also outsizes their next largest competitor by almost 8-to-1, making it the leader in the region. The company's 40-person team will now continue to operate out of its HQ in Sydney, and will be managed by Anton Stanish, General Manager for Stayz. Its inventory will become integrated into HomeAway’s pay-per-booking inventory in the U.S. and Europe, to generate additional traffic. According to HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples, the deal in this case was not only for the 33,000 properties themselves, but also to provide further momentum for his company's newly-launched pay-per-booking business - "something Stayz has worked over the years to optimize," he noted in a statement about the deal. For HomeAway, Stayz was an attractive service because it has been around since 2001, and has well-established procedures in place. This is not HomeAway's first acquisition in the region, but rather comes nearly a month after it acquired a majority stake (55%) in a nearby competitor, Bookabach, based in New Zealand. Also over the course of the past year, HomeAway acquired another smaller service, short-term rental site based in Singapore, travelmob.com; it set up a distribution partnership with Wego.com; and the company made a minority investment in China-based vacation rental company, Tujia.com. HomeAway's growth-through-acquisitions strategy comes at a time when other competitors have been shifting their international focus - for instance, while Airbnb created a new hub for global operations in Berlin this year, it has also purposefully tried to slow down from what could have been otherwise too-rapid expansion. During its earlier years, Airbnb had been fighting clones in Europe and Asia for listings, including Samwer brothers-backed Wimdu GmbH. (Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky even once considered buying this rival but decided not to, having not been comfortable with the culture and tactics it employed.) But as Airbnb dialed down its overseas hiring and growth over the past year, others like HomeAway have stepped in to snap up the smaller competitors, like HomeAway has now done with Stayz. HomeAway itself has had a presence in the Australian region since 2011, following its purchase of the the vacation rental business from REA Group Limited, and subsequent launch of HomeAway.com.au.
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