Through aggressive acquisitions, HomeAway (AWAY) has created the biggest marketplace for vacation rentals. In the latest quarter, AWAY had 742,000 paid listings across 171 countries, and its sites attracted 207 million people, up 22% over the past year.
Online marketplaces can certainly turn into powerful businesses with strong barriers to entry — take eBay, for instance. They benefit from network effects, which means the value of a platform gets exponentially more valuable as the number of users and listings increase.
As for HomeAway, growth has been healthy. In fiscal 2012, revenues hit $280 million, up 22% over the prior year, and this growth ramp has continued into 2013. Plus, AWAY is a nice cash generator, with EBITDA coming to a juicy $80 million last year.
Factors that could drive HomeAway even further is continued improvement in the U.S. economy and secular trends such as baby boomers retiring — both of which should help the vacation industry.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.