Skift Take

With expense firms doubling down on travel management with acquisitions, is this genuine confidence in a corporate travel rebound or opportunistic purchases of distressed startups?

Expense platforms are snapping up corporate travel booking tools, anticipating a revenue boost once business trips return.

Expense management company Coupa has announced it has acquired Pana — a deal described as a “complete no-brainer” by its CEO Rob Bernshteyn. If this sounds familiar, Skift all but predicted this combination in a story on February 5.

The acquisition comes at the same time as rival Emburse revealed it had bought Roadmap and Data Visualization Intelligence.

Terms of these acquisitions were not disclosed.

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However, on Tuesday Coupa posted a fourth quarter operating loss of $95.4 million, compared to a loss of $15.9 million for the same period last year. This is despite total revenues of $163.5 million, which was an increase of 47 percent compared to the same period last year.

Playing the Long Game

As Skift reported in February, Coupa will gain a bigger footprint in the early spending decision cycle of its clients. Denver, Colorado-based Pana provides an on-demand mobile app, which acts as a travel concierge for booking flights, hotels, cars and dining. It also recently raised $3.6 million in funding.

It’s used by major agencies including CWT and BCD Travel, which brings in more potential customers for Coupa to sell its expense software.

“We know the world is going to come back in some sort of sense of normalcy, whether it’s six months, 12 months or 18 months,” Coupa chief financial officer Todd Ford said during the company’s earnings call on Tuesday, “and by getting ahead of this on the travel expense side, we’re going to be really well positioned when travel does come back.”

The acquisition also fits in with the trend of “acqui-hiring,” where companies see more value in acquiring technology that would take them time to build themselves.

In January, one investment banker noted the rise in acquisitions of technology businesses. “These are often acqui-hires, where there’s a particular piece of technology that an agency or larger technology group thinks fits well, and that gets snapped up,” said Christopher Jones, managing director at global investment bank GCA Altium.

“In making the decision to acquire Pana, we considered culture first, we considered buy versus build, and we considered whether it could quickly be integrated into our platform while maintaining a seamless experience for users,” said Bernshteyn. “We are more than confident that this acquisition checks all of these boxes.”

Travel was also a category that Coupa has been watching for some time. He said Pana had taken an innovative approach to sorting out the travel bookings process.

“Making that transactional construct part of our overall expense management offering, and thus part of our overall business spend management offering, just seemed like a complete no-brainer to us and we’re well under way to integrating that offering already,” he said.

Emburse Digs Into Travel

Rival expense player Emburse also announced acquisitions yesterday, snapping up Roadmap, a travel app that allows companies to integrate multiple suppliers, and travel data firm Data Visualization Intelligence to deepen its analytics expertise and capabilities in travel and corporate spend.

“Emburse has an impressive product portfolio, and its values and purpose are very similar to Roadmap’s. It was love at first sight,” said Roadmap founders Jeroen van Velzen, Koen Bavinck, and Markus Emmer in a statement. “Joining hands with Emburse will allow us to accelerate our vision: we can automate the entire employee journey while creating a thoughtful, seamless traveler experience.”

Like Pana, Roadmap also has a large footprint, counting Microsoft as a client, and is popular among travel managers who are able to bring in a range of suppliers into a single interface for company employees to use.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Emburse posted a fourth-quarter loss of $95.4 million. 

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Tags: bcd travel, corporate travel, corporate travel management, coupa, cwt, emburse, expense management, expense technology

Photo credit: Expense platforms are buying up corporate travel booking platforms, anticipating a revenue boost once business trips return. Morgan / Flickr

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