Booking Holdings Inc. reported its biggest-ever quarterly decline in revenue, showing the extent to which the coronavirus has gutted the travel industry. Still, the results were better than Wall Street was expecting and the company said it’s starting to see signs of recovery.
Norwalk, Connecticut-based Booking said revenue fell 84 per cent in the second quarter from a year earlier to US$630 million, the lowest in a decade. But that beat analysts’ estimates of US$569.4 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Room nights booked tumbled 87 per cent. Gross bookings, which reflect all travel services booked by customers, declined 91 per cent.
“We faced a challenging second quarter and continue to face challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel demand,” Chief Executive Officer Glenn Fogel said in a statement. “However, we have witnessed improvement in booking trends since April, which is encouraging.”
In an effort to cut costs, the online travel operator on Tuesday announced it was eliminating 25 per cent of its workforce, about 4,300 employees, in its leading brand, Booking.com. Delivering the news in a video call with staff, Fogel said the past five months represented “the largest social and economic crisis of our lifetime.”
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the world over the past few months, all but eliminating global travel. Business trips have been replaced with video conferences and vacations canceled, leading airlines to ground flights and hotels to close. Airbnb Inc. and TripAdvisor Inc. also eliminated a quarter of their workforce and last week, Expedia Group Inc. reported a similar revenue decline in the second quarter.
There have been some nascent signs of a bounce back in the industry. Airbnb and Expedia have seen an increase in demand for domestic stays as some economies start to reopen. But Booking may take longer to show improvement because it is more exposed to Europe, which accounts for more than half its revenue, Cowen & Co. analyst Kevin Kopelman wrote in a note before the results were published. The continent was shut down more completely and has been slower to reopen.
Booking, which runs five major travel brands including Kayak and Priceline, had previously signaled that second-quarter results would suffer the full force of the coronavirus since global lockdowns only went into effect near the tail-end of the first quarter. The adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was US$376 million, compared with a loss of US$1.4 billion a year earlier. Analysts were anticipating a loss of US$436 million on that basis.
Shares have fallen 16 per cent this year through Wednesday, compared with a 3% gain in the S&P 500 Index. The stock was little changed in extended trading.