Kayak is off to a strong start Friday morning. After debuting on NASDAQ at $26 a share (above the $22-$25 range everyone was expecting), Kayak shares closed at $33.18, a 27% increase, valuing the company at over $1 billion. With 3.5 million shares up for grabs, the company is looking to raise $91 million.
The travel site has had a tough go of things. The company initially filed for an IPO back in November of 2010, but a murky market and Google’s $700 million ITA deal (which means Google now owns the flight technology that powers other travel sites like Kayak) gave Kayak cold feet, and the company let its paperwork expire while it waited to see which way the market would go.
As Kayak noted last year, “If ITA or Google limit our access to the ITA software or any improvements to the software, separately develop replacement software to which they claim we are not entitled or increase the price we pay for any improvements or replacement software and we are unable to replace ITA’s software with a comparable technology, we may be unable to operate our business effectively and our financial performance may suffer.”
But it looks like 2011 was a good year for Kayak, notwithstanding the Google ITA deal. The company raked in $224 million for a net income of $14 million. By comparison, the company made $170 million in 2010 for a net income of $16 million.
In its latest filing, Kayak says that it processed over 310 million travel queries last quarter, representing an increase of 45% over the same time period in 2011. Mobile usage also saw some strong growth in Q1, with some three million downloads of Kayak mobile apps (15 million downloaded to date), marking a 43% increase over Q1 2011.
And Kayak’s expecting more growth in 2012, noting that the global travel industry as a whole accounted for $910 billion in 2011 and is expected to increase 6% in 2012. Online bookings alone accounted for 31% of that total—or $284 billion.
Indeed, the online travel space has been getting a lot of attention these days. Rival online travel booking site Hipmunk raised a $15 million Series B round led by IVP last month. Last-minute hotel booking app HotelTonight raised $23 million in June as well.
It’s also worth noting that this is the first IPO Morgan Stanley has done since the Facebook debacle two months ago.