Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Normal service has been resumed, maybe

What is the collective noun for a grouping of silly April Fool Day stories? A tedium? An indulgence? A bullshit?

Charles Dickens coined the phrase 'baa humbug' to indicate those who refused to get into the Christmas spirit. Any suggestions for a similar phrase for a journalist who refuses to get play at April Fools? As a profession we have enough credibility issues as it is without actively making things up.

On the way into the office, I saw in The Sun a story I quite liked, about Wayne Rooney having to learn Italian because Fabio Capello couldn't understand his English.

I thought as an academic exercise about what I would do if there was a directive from Travolution's parent company for all its blogs to get involved. I thought about something along the lines of the Chinese government buying Google. But I decided against it because they theoretically could. Didn’t they buy 10% of Blackstone last year?

So I get into the office and someone has beaten me to it - a reputable title is reporting that Google is buying Facebook for $25bn. Hold on, Google is also linking up with Virgin to launch a colony on Mars. Ho ho ho.

But now we find that there are reports – run by Reuters and picked up accordingly - about Google buying Expedia. This is where the fun ends. Expedia’s share price climbed 10% on the back of this and other OTAs have seen their share price increasing too.

The problem is I don’t think Google buying Expedia is that far wide of the mark. Let's face it, Expedia is almost a search engine already, has talked about monetizing the eyeballs and getting more involved in 'the media model'. Imagine how powerful a proposition PPC on Expedia would be.

There would be global revenue from the ads, as well as the revenue from the sales. Google could get involved in video search on the Expedia content, connect into tripadvisor, adopt Google Checkout for payment. We could go on.

If this note had not come out on April Fool’s Day we might be taking it more seriously. The reporters who are bylined all have recent Reuters email address; Susquehanna Financial Group, whose note to clients based on unsubstantiated rumours kickstarted everything, exists.

Is there a massive Sarbanes-Oxley issue here as well? I’m pretty sure that if UK-listed company sees its share go up by 10% in a day it has to tell the market. Does the same thing apply in the US, anyone? We’ll see when the markets open shortly.

This could be something in nothing (although I wonder whether the regulators would see it like that). Or it could be the biggest thing ever to happen in the online travel industry.

Martin Cowen, chief writer, Travolution

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1 comment:

Dan G. said...

I'm no expert on US Securities Law but in Europe if there is unusual trading activity because of a rumour, the company in question would be obliged to clarify the situation with a filing.