Booking Holdings loses nearly 700 million

Booking Holdings’ revenue fell 19% in the first quarter to
$2.3 billion, and the company reported a first-quarter net loss of $699 million.

The company swung to a loss from net income of $765 million
from the first quarter of 2019.

On the company’s earnings call Thursday, CEO Glenn Fogel
said Booking Holdings was not hit with the full negative impact of coronavirus
until the second half of March. In March, room nights fell more than 100%,
indicating that there were more cancellations than bookings.

Booking Holdings’ gross travel bookings totaled $12.4 billion,
a 51% decrease. Booked room nights fell 43%.

Like many other companies, Booking Holdings has moved most
of its employees to work from home, including its customer-service teams. They
were initially inundated with cancellation and change requests, but Fogel said
they are functioning well today.

Booking Holdings has been working to conserve its cash and
increase liquidity, with measures ranging from a hiring freeze to no or lower
compensation for executives and higher-ranking employees. The company bolstered
its liquidity with more than $4 billion in debt, Fogel said, enabling it to
weather a long period of decreased demand.

Fogel said the company will continue to invest in key areas
like payments and its connected trip initiative, but is examining other
areas to reduce or delay costs whenever possible.

The company has turned to various government financial
support programs in the U.K. and the Netherlands to furlough employees but have
their salaries supplemented by the government.

Booking Holdings also recently completed a strategic
evaluation on its OpenTable and Kayak brands, Fogel said. That resulted in some
layoffs and furloughs. The company is now evaluating its other brands. 

“Travel is fundamental to who we are, and while it might
take some time to get back to pre-Covid-19 levels, we will get there
eventually,” Fogel said.

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