We asked teenagers and young adults if the movie gets close to the reality of living through cancer. They said the loneliness, yes. The Hollywood hair, not so much.
Travel website Priceline just bought OpenTable for $2.6 billion. OpenTable, if you don’t know it, is an online restaurant reservation site. That might sound like kind of an odd move for Priceline, but it’s all about the future of travel… or, actually the past.
Remember travel agents?
You'd go to them before you booked at trip and they'd help you plan your itinerary and be able to give you insider tips, like the cool neighborhood to stay in or a cute bistro you should try. "The travel agent is making a comeback," says Steve Cohen, Vice President of Research at MMGY Global. Cohen says baby boomers and millennials are gravitating back to travel agents and away from DIY online bookings, because they're putting convenience and expertise ahead of pure price consideration.
To compete now, says Cohen, travel sites have to be a place where customers can research and plan their entire trip. "A very large percentage of travelers like to have most of their vacation planned before they ever get there," he says.
Right now on most travel sites, you can book a flight, hotel and rental car, but that’s still missing most of the trip and the money. "As much as 60 percent of a traveler’s budget is spent in their destination," says Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group. "Dining, shopping, entertainment, things like that. The online travel companies are saying, 'We've done a pretty good job tackling that 40 percent, let’s see how much of the rest of the budget we can sink our teeth into."
And they’re well positioned to do exactly that. Priceline already knows where its customers are going and when. With OpenTable, it will know what they like to eat. "They can start to make recommendations," says Douglas Quinby, Vice President of Research at PhoCusWright, a travel industry research group. "Well, we see that you like Italian, there's a fantastic 4-star Italian place that's got seating available on this night and we know you’re going to be in New York."
Perhaps most importantly profit-potential-wise, travel sites know where you live during the rest of the year. "It really turns them into this lifestyle utility that also could be used at home," says Harteveldt. "Something like, here’s a great new store that opened in your city."
Harteveldt points out we travel, on average, three times per year, but we explore the cities and towns we live in all year.
With Friday's announced $2.6 billion acquisition of OpenTable, Priceline adds another frontier to its vast booking empire. Priceline Group already owns booking websites kayak.com, booking.com, rentalcars.com, agoda.com, and, of course, priceline.com (well known for its commercials with William Shatner.)
When one company in an industry is purchased by an outsider, it can sometimes lead to interest or inquiry into the potential acquisitions of rivals. Here are some companies who 1) saw their stock prices initially boosted by Priceline's announced purchase of OpenTable, and 2) also have the financial muscle behind them to snap up some competitors:
Online review sites
Yelp is the 800-pound gorilla of review sites, valued at $4.5 billion since going public last year. But it has competitors like TripAdvisor, Citysearch and Local.com that all perform similar functions, but are not nearly as popular.
Some analysts suggest Yelp should consider buying one of them. Especially since Priceline's snatching up of OpenTable makes it less likely that Yelp will be acquired by a bigger company. Not that Yelp's finances were hurt by the news: shares in the company were up.
Coupon and deal sites
Same goes for Groupon, the massive discount coupon site. But Groupon has competition from smaller players like LivingSocial, ScoutMob, Savored and Happy Hours.
Electronic payment services
PayPal also saw an uptick in stock price after the OpenTable acquisition was revealed. The peer-to-peer payment system owned by eBay used to be the only one on the block, but now PayPal has a rival in Square. Smaller competitors like PayDragon, TabbedOut and BarTab are making inroads as well.
Food delivery services
Who you order your food from could be considered as personal as, well, food. A merger of big players already occurred in this business in May 2013, when GrubHub and Seamless announced that they were merging. That company's stock was initially way up on the news and is a giant among similar services like Delivery.com and Eat24.
The insurgent group ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has been wreaking military havoc across Northern Iraq. In recent days the Sunni group has taken the major oil-trading hub of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as well as Tikrit, and is moving south toward Baghdad.
All of that military action is causing jitters in financial markets around the world, as well as driving up world oil prices. Another financial impact from ISIL’s rapid advance—the group is getting a lot richer.
Reports from the region, quoting the Iraqi provincial governor, say ISIL fighters raided Mosul’s central bank as they took the city. They may have stolen $425 million or more. They reportedly looted other banks’ vaults of cash and gold bullion as well.
“For this organization, this is a major windfall,” said Rick Brennan, a retired Army officer and senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Brennan said that will buy a lot for ISIL: “arms, ammunition, paying for foreign fighters, increasing salaries. It enables them to transform themselves from just an insurgent group, to almost having a small army, which is something that we haven’t seen before.”
ISIL is rumored to pay its fighters well, to provide death benefits to the families of fallen soldiers, and to pay both more, and more regularly, than the armies of Iraq and Syria, said Austin Long, a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, who was an advisor to the U.S. military in Iraq.
“Every war takes finance, and they’re quite good at extracting finance to fund their war,” Long said of ISIL, whose activities he’s been following since the mid-2000s.
“These guys are good businessmen, they made a lot of money from seizing various legal and illegal enterprises,” said Long. “They kept very good, detailed records. They had very sophisticated ways of not only taxation, but also stealing cars and reselling them in Kurdistan, where they knew they could get better prices.”
ISIL forces have overrun oil pipelines and export facilities in Iraq and Syria, and smuggling that oil is one source of revenue for the group. But ISIL is still not considered capable of attacking or seizing Iraq’s major oil fields, which are defended by the Iraqi government in the South, and the Kurds in the north.
And Raad Alkadiri, senior director at UpStream Research/IHS Energy, says that even with hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal, ISIL would be hard-pressed to actually operate oil production facilities, or find the technical workers it would need to do so. And even if ISIL could get significant oil-pumping and refining underway, the group would not easily find customers in the region or outside it, who would be willing to transport or purchase any oil it tried to export.
Rep. Raul Labrador, who was swept into Congress on the 2010 anti-establishment wave, is throwing his hat in the ring to replace Eric Cantor.
The Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy and Redfin's Nela Richardson sit down with Kai to discuss this week's events for our Weekly Wrap:
Conflict in Iraq:
"The makrets clearly don't care. The markets clearly haven't cared about a whole lot for a while... They're certainly on the watch for any trouble out there. You've seen potential trouble in Iraq, you've seen potential trouble in Syria, you've seen potential trouble in Russia and Ukraine, and the markets have been able to brush that off pretty easily...though it's clear that this situation is worse and doesn't have a very clearly outcome any time soon," says Reddy.
Rising oil and gas prices:
"We've seen gas prices be basically pretty stable and high and now with this uncertainty they're about to become unstable and higher," says Richardson.
Eric Cantor's defeat:
"The environment is certainly marginally worse. The big question is whether anything will get done in 2015," adds Reddy.
"We lost a deal maker... There are three potential scenarios: there's a 'good' solution where the debt ceiling is extended with the budget, there's a 'will do' sollution where it's just extended for short term, and then theres this catastrophic -- not a solution -- where you see this kind of thing where markets go crazy and we don't know what happens next," says Richardson.
Future of price-rises:
"Growth. It takes growth to produce some price increases and we just haven't seen it," adds Richardson.