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Skyscanner profits surge amid US plan

TRAVEL search site Skyscanner has reported a 65% hike in revenue to £33.5 million and unveiled plans to set up a permanent base in the United States.

The Edinburgh company said earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation in 2012 jumped 153% to £12m as its annual traffic rose 84%, with more than 30 million visitors each month.

Travel bookings for its airline partners were at £2.3 billion across the 12 months.

Skyscanner, which employs around 160 of its 180 staff in Scotland, intends to open an office in Miami this year as it pushes into North and South America.

The technology business has seen large growth in Asia following the opening of offices in Singapore and Beijing and an alliance with Chinese search engine Baidu.

While the UK still makes up the largest part of traffic, at around 20%, Asia has gone from 6% to 18% across the past 18 months.

Gareth Williams, chief executive and co-founder, said: "It's our ambition at Skyscanner to be the number one in travel search globally, and we're confident that our Miami office will play a big part in achieving that goal.

"We will start pretty slowly in Miami and have about 10 people in there by the end of the year, but that has potential to grow through 2014.

"If you look at Asia Pacific, it has gone from about 6% of our website traffic to 18% and I would look to our impact in the Americas being similar.

"We can take all we have learned about opening a regional office and apply that and perhaps move a little bit quicker.

"We don't have definitive financial or traffic number goals but we are looking to replicate the quite rapid success we achieved in Asia."

The company is also seeing strong traffic growth from mobile devices and tablet computers.

Its mobile apps, which are available across a number of operating systems, have been downloaded more than 12 million times.

Mr Williams said: "More and more people are discovering us through mobile apps.

"The trends we see in devices are people tend to use our apps more on iOS rather than Android. There are also much stronger conversions on tablet devices, particularly iPad, compared to phone devices."

Skyscanner plans to add around 100 staff over the next 12 months in areas including web developers, marketing managers and IT service specialists.

The company, which built its reputation as a flight search engine, is building greater capacity in car hire and hotels. Scottish Equity Partners remains the sole external investor in the company.

Mr Williams ruled out any stock market flotation in the near future and said the company's cash generation was funding its expansion.

He said: "If we want to raise external funds I think it would be more efficient and less of a diversion for the company to do that from private or institutional investors."

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