Despite millions of dollars spent on advertising, Orbitz remains, for doddering old webheads like yours truly, a disgusting carbonated beverage, not a troubled online trip booker. But investors are expected to find tomorrow's Orbitz IPO, in which the much-traveled Internet company hopes to raise $617 million, just as yucky. Here's why.
This is Orbitz's second IPO in less than four years. Launched by an airline consortium as a competitor to Travelocity and Expedia in 2000, it went public in December 2003, Orbitz was bought by Cendant, spun off as part of Travelport, and taken private. And the hoped-for proceeds of the IPO are not going to bulk up Orbitz; instead, they'll be used to pay off Travelport's debt. Online travel agents have a diffident future, at best: Hotels and airlines have figured out more profitable ways to sell rooms and seats directly to travelers, cutting out the middlemen. A bubbly drink, a not-so-bubbly stock: I prefer to remember Orbitz as the former.