Kayak Files for $50M IPO, Claims Google Threat

The high-flying travel search startup Kayak Software Corp. intends to go public with shares worth up to $50 million, according to an SEC filing, but faces a challenge from Google.

The Connecticut-based Kayak.com, which pulls in airfares, hotel prices and other travel-related search results from multiple sources such as Expedia and Orbitz, has been growing steadily since its launch in 2004. According to the document, the company processed 469 million travel searches in the first three quarters of 2010, an increase of 37% compared to the same period a year ago. That translates into some big bucks.

The company said sales rose 48% to $128.3 million during that period. And for the quarter ending on Sept. 30, sales were up 80% compared to 2009. The online travel industry as a whole generated $216 billion, according to Kayak, giving it and other similar companies plenty of space to grow into.

Kayak’s mobile applications have been downloaded almost 4 million times since their introduction in March 2009, and those stats include 1 million downloads in the September quarter alone.

Despite the big numbers, Kayak and similar travel search sites may get a big stomping from Google, which is in the process of buying ITA Software, the company that powers Kayak’s travel search engine. Google announced back in July that it would buy ITA for $700 million.

“If completed, Google could pursue the creation of new flight search tools which will enable people to find comparable flight information on the Internet without using a service like ours,” Kayak disclosed. The company also expressed concern that the Google buyout could result in “less favorable terms” with ITA in the future, or prevent the search provider from renewing its agreement with Kayak at all.

Kayak, along with travel search players Expedia, and the parent company of Travelocity (Sabre Holdings), sent a joint letter (pdf) to Congress on Tuesday asking them to prevent Google’s ITA buyout on anti-competitive grounds.

However Google remained so excited about the ITA deal that it’s produced a cartoon explaining the reasoning behind the buyout: