(Yicai Global) April 13 -- Trip.Com Group has seen major shareholders discreetly scale back their holdings in China’s largest online travel agency since the novel coronavirus pandemic started upending the travel sector.
UK investment management firm Baillie Gifford's stake fell to 7.7 percent from 8.7 percent as of Feb. 3, while US fund manager T. Rowe Price Associates' had trimmed its holding to 5.4 percent from 5.9 percent as of Feb. 14, according to Trip’s annual report for 2019 submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission on April 9.
Leading global online travel platform Booking Holdings also sold a number of Trip shares between March 23 to April 3 and now holds under 5 percent.
Shanghai-based Trip has yet to release any financial data since the virus outbreak but is expected to log an operational loss of between CNY1.75 billion (USD248 million) to CNY1.85 billion for the first quarter. Last month, its top executives stopped receiving a salary, and a series of other cost-cutting measures were taken to shore up the firm.
Trip’s largest shareholder, Chinese search engine giant Baidu, had previously cut its stake by about a third, to 11.7 percent as of Oct. 2 last year from 19 percent at the end of 2018. The move was came before the Covid-19 outbreak and had more to do with a shift in Baidu’s priorities, as it looked to expand in other business avenues.
Trip co-founder and Chairman James Liang increased his stake to 2.3 percent from 2.1 percent in 2019, while co-founder Fan Min and Chief Executive Jane Sun kept their shareholding ratios unchanged at 1.9 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
In the fiscal year 2019, which ended on Feb. 29, Trip posted net income of CNY7 billion (USD992.4 million), CNY1 billion more than in the previous year, on revenue of CNY35.7 billion (USD5 billion), a year-on-year gain of 15 percent.
Shares of Trip [NASDAQ:TCOM] closed up almost 1.3 percent at USD24.82 each before the Easter holiday trading break.
Editor: Kim Taylor