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Expedia- Time to Travel with Barry Diller

·3 min read

Expedia Group (EXPE) is my online travel company; I like its business, its margins, and, just as important, its management team. All three are second to none, asserts Steve Mauzy, editor of Wyatt Research's Personal Wealth Advisor.

Expedia Group is the dominant firm in the industry with brands including Expedia, Hotels, Vrbo, Orbitz, Travelocity, CheapTickets, HotWire, and Trivago. I’d bet dollars to dimes that you have used at least one of Expedia’s services.

Expedia’s revenue and earnings have trended in one direction — higher — since its 2005 IPO. Revenue grew at a 16.9% annual average through 2019. Earnings per share grew at a 7.6% average annual rate. 

More from Steve Mauzy: Retailers: Damaged Goods?

It was all good until March 2020, and then it wasn’t. When the books were closed for 2020, Expedia recorded $5.2 billion in annual revenue, less than half the prior year. The loss per share totaled $19.00.

The dividend was suspended. Capital was raised; management instead tapped the debt markets for the $3.2 billion, thus avoiding diluting the owners’ positions.

Expedia has been rebuilding over the past 12 months. The company has yet to reach pre-COVID status, but it’s getting there. What’s more, the rebuilding is progressing faster than analysts have expected.

With further vaccine rollouts and easing of travel restrictions, Expedia should benefit from a release of pent-up demand. Demand would likely accelerate in 2022, even with a likely uneven recovery.

The share price has recovered with the business prospects. Expedia shares traded as high as $188 back in March. They’ve drifted lower since. Enthusiasm has waned on the threat of a new COVID variant.

It’s best not to wait. Once certainty returns, stock prices will have already adjusted to higher level. Let’s get in while the getting in is still good. 

I see certainty returning within the next 12 months. My $210 price target reflects its return. I base this on a 2.8 price-to-revenue multiple on my 2022 estimate of $12 billion. The valuation is still a discount versus the peers.

In addition, Expedia has quality management in spades. Barry Diller is Expedia’s chairman and senior executive. He has assembled a quality, innovative management team at Expedia. I would expect nothing less, given his experience.

See also: Easy Money and the Risk of Inflation

Diller has served as CEO at several predecessor corporations. They include QVC, Paramount Pictures, USA Broadcasting, and Fox Inc., where he was the creative force behind the Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox’s motion picture operations.

Diller moved beyond entertainment to online service in the 2000s. He is also chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, an interactive commerce conglomerate. IAC is the parent company of HomeAdvisor, Vimeo, Tinder, and the Daily Beast. Until 2020, IAC was the parent of Match Group.

Diller has created nothing but value for investors over the past four decades. I expect the same for Expedia shareholders for one considerable reason: skin in the game.

Diller controls 29% of the total voting power through his 100% ownership of Expedia class B shares (supervoting). He also owns 9% of the outstanding common shares. Buy Expedia up to $175.

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