UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington D.C. 20549
☐ REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
☒ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021
☐ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
☐ SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Commission file number: 001-37959
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
Kesselstraße 5 - 7, 40221 Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany
(Address of principal executive offices)
Axel Hefer, +49 211 3876840000, Kesselstraße 5 - 7, 40221 Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading symbol||Name of each exchange on which registered|
American Depositary Shares, each representing one
Class A share, nominal value €0.06 per share
|TRVG||The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC|
|Class A shares, nominal value €0.06 per share*||The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC*|
|*||Not for trading, but only in connection with the registration of the American Depositary Shares.|
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act: None
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report:
96,704,815 Class A shares
261,962,688 Class B shares
(as of December 31, 2021)
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. ☐ Yes ☒ No
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. ☐ Yes ☒ No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. ☒ Yes ☐ No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
☒ Yes ☐ No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a "large accelerated filer," an "accelerated filer," a "non-accelerated filer" or an "emerging growth company."
Large accelerated filer ☐ Accelerated filer ☒ Non-accelerated filer ☐ Emerging growth company ☐
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒ Yes ☐ No
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
U.S. GAAP x
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the
International Accounting Standards Board o
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow:
☐ Item 17 ☐ Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). ☐ Yes ☒ No
Table of contents
As used herein, references to “we,” “us,” the “company,” or “trivago,” or similar terms in this Annual Report on Form 20-F mean trivago N.V. and, as the context requires, its subsidiaries. References to "Expedia Group" mean our majority shareholder, Expedia Group, Inc., together with its subsidiaries. References to our "Founders" mean Rolf Schrömgens, Peter Vinnemeier and Malte Siewert, collectively.
Our financial statements are prepared in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or U.S. GAAP. Unless otherwise specified, all monetary amounts are in euros. All references in this annual report to “$,” “US$,” “U.S.$,” “U.S. dollars,” “dollars” and “USD” mean U.S. dollars, and all references to “€” and “euros,” mean euros, unless otherwise noted.
Special note regarding forward-looking statements
This annual report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, that are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. All statements other than present and historical facts and conditions contained in this annual report, including statements regarding our future results of operations and financial positions, business strategy, plans and our objectives for future operations, are forward-looking statements. When used in this annual report, the words “aim,” “anticipate,” “assume,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “continue,” “could,” “due,” “estimate,” “expect,” “goal,” “intend,” “may,” “objective,” “plan,” “predict,” “potential,” “positioned,” “seek,” “should,” “target,” “will,” “would,” and other similar expressions that are predictions of or indicate future events and future trends, or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:
•the continued material adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global and local economy, the travel industry and our business and financial performance;
•any acceleration of long-term changes to consumer behavior and industry structure arising from the COVID-19 pandemic that may continue to have a significant adverse effect on our future competitiveness and profitability;
•any additional impairment of goodwill;
•our continued dependence on a small number of advertisers for our revenue and adverse impacts that could result from their reduced spending or changes in their cost-per-click, or CPC, bidding strategy;
•our ability to generate referrals, customers, bookings or revenue and profit for our advertisers on a basis they deem to be cost-effective;
•factors that contribute to our period-over-period volatility in our financial condition and result of operations;
•our dependence on general economic conditions and adverse impacts that could result from declines in travel or discretionary spending;
•the decreased effectiveness of our Advertising Spend as a result of an almost complete stop to television advertising in 2020, resuming only at reduced levels in 2021, which may continue to have a negative impact on the effectiveness of our advertising in coming years;
•our ability to implement our strategic initiatives;
•increasing competition in our industry;
•our ability to innovate and provide tools and services that are useful to our users and advertisers;
•our dependence on relationships with third parties to provide us with content;
•our reliance on search engines, particularly Google, which promote its own product and services that competes directly with our accommodation search and may negatively impact our business, financial performance and prospects;
•changes to and our compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations;
•the impact of any legal and regulatory proceedings to which we are or may become subject;
•potential disruptions in the operation of our systems, security breaches and data protection; and
•impacts from our operating globally.
You should refer to the section of this annual report titled “Item 3: Key information - D. Risk factors” for a discussion of important factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by our forward-looking statements. As a result of these factors, we cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this annual report will prove to be accurate. Furthermore, if our forward-looking statements prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not regard these statements as a representation or warranty by us or any other person that we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame or at all. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.
You should read this annual report and the documents that we reference in this annual report and have filed as exhibits to this annual report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.
Summary of our risk factors
Our business is subject to numerous risks that you should be aware of before making an investment decision. These risks are described more fully in "Item 3: Key information - D. Risk factors". These risks include, among others:
Risks related to COVID-19, the travel industry and our business
•The COVID-19 pandemic has had, and is expected to continue to have, a material adverse impact on the travel industry and our business, financial performance and liquidity position. Our ultimate financial performance will depend on a number of factors relating to the world’s continued emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the threat of future variants of the virus that could prove deadlier or more contagious, requiring governments to again implement travel and mobility restrictions. Should our recovery from the pandemic progress more slowly than we have assumed or we suffer greater setbacks, this will likely have a significant adverse effect on our future financial performance.
•We derive a large portion of our revenue from a relatively small number of advertisers and we have become increasingly reliant on one advertiser since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any further reduction in spending or any additional change in the bidding strategies by any of these advertisers could harm our business and negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
•We cannot reliably predict our advertisers' future advertising spend or CPC levels or other strategic goals they hope to achieve through changes in bidding on our marketplace and, as a result, it is difficult for us to forecast advertiser demand, especially since our advertisers can and often do change their CPC bidding levels with little or no notice to us.
•As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced and may in the future experience an impairment of goodwill.
•We are dependent on general economic conditions, and declines in travel or discretionary spending has reduced and in the future, could reduce the demand for our services.
•We expect that an almost complete stop to television advertising in 2020, resuming only at reduced levels in 2021, will continue to have a negative impact on the effectiveness of our advertising in coming years, impairing our ability to maintain and increase brand awareness. Our financial performance is dependent on the effectiveness of our Advertising Spend. Any inability to execute our advertising strategy could harm our business and negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
•Increasing competition in our industry could result in a loss of market share and higher traffic acquisition costs or reduce the value of our services to users and a loss of users, which would adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
•We rely on search engines, particularly Google, to drive a substantial amount of traffic to our platform. If Google continues to promote its own products and services that compete directly with our accommodation search at the expense of traditional keyword auctions and organic search, our business, financial performance and prospects may be negatively impacted.
•If we are unable to implement our strategic plans successfully, we may be unable to achieve our objectives, or we may incur further losses, and our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
•If we do not continue to innovate and provide tools and services that are useful to users and advertisers, we may not remain competitive, and our revenue and results of operations could suffer.
•Several of our product features depend, in part, on our relationship with third parties to provide us with content and services.
Legal and regulatory risks
•We are involved in various legal proceedings and may experience unfavorable outcomes, which could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
•The litigation in Australia could increase our expenses and will subject us to significant monetary penalties.
•Regulators' continued focus on the consumer-facing business practices of online travel companies may adversely affect our business, financial performance, results of operations or business growth.
•We process, store and use user and employee personal data, which entails reputational, litigation and liability risks associated to any potential failure to protect such data from breaches or to comply with relevant legal obligations, which are constantly evolving.
•The competition for highly skilled personnel, including senior management and technology professionals is intense. If we are unable to retain or motivate key personnel or hire, retain, and motivate qualified personnel, our business would be harmed.
•We are dependent upon the quality of traffic in our network to provide value to our travel partners, and any failure in our ability to deliver quality traffic and/or the metrics to demonstrate the value of the traffic could have a material and adverse impact on the value of our websites to our travel partners and adversely affect our revenue.
•We rely on assumptions, estimates and data to make decisions about our business, and any inaccuracies in, or misinterpretation of, such information could negatively impact our business.
•We may experience difficulties in implementing new business and financial systems.
•Increased computer circumvention capabilities could result in security breaches in our information systems, which may significantly harm our business.
•Any significant disruption in service on our websites and apps or in our computer systems, most of which are currently hosted by third-party providers, could damage our reputation and result in a loss of users, which would harm our business and results of operations.
•Our brand is subject to reputational risks and impairment.
Risks related to our ongoing relationship with our shareholders
•Expedia Group controls our company and has the ability to control the direction of our business.
•The Founders have contractual rights to exert control over certain aspects of our business.
•Expedia Group’s interests may conflict with our interests, the interests of the Founders and the interests of our shareholders, and conflicts of interest among Expedia Group, the Founders and us could be resolved in a manner unfavorable to us and our shareholders.
Item 1: Identity of directors, senior management and advisers
Item 2: Offer statistics and expected timetable
Item 3: Key information
A. Selected financial data
B. Capitalization and indebtedness
C. Reasons for the offer and use of proceeds
D. Risk factors
Our business faces significant risks. You should carefully consider all of the information set forth in this annual report and in our other filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, including the following risks that we face and that are faced by our industry. Our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected by any of these risks. This annual report also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our results could materially differ from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors including the risks described below and elsewhere in this annual report and our other SEC filings. See “Special note regarding forward-looking statements” above. For a summary of these risk factors, see "Summary of our risk factors" above.
Risks related to COVID-19, the travel industry and our business
The COVID-19 pandemic has had, and is expected to continue to have, a material adverse impact on the travel industry and our business, financial performance and liquidity position.
The continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted the level of economic activity around the world and is having an unprecedented effect on the global travel industry. In response to the pandemic and the various waves of infection caused by it, the governments of many countries, states, cities and other geographic regions have implemented in the past, and continue to implement, containment measures, such as imposing travel restrictions, curfews, quarantine requirements, social-distancing, adjusted business operations and vaccination mandates, which tend to adversely affect the ability of businesses to operate in the manner they had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals’ ability to travel has been curtailed through border closures, mandated travel restrictions and limited operations of hotels and airlines and may be further limited through additional voluntary or mandated closures of travel-related businesses. The measures implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have had, and are expected to continue to have, a significant negative effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and liquidity position.
Despite the continued progress made in respect of vaccination programs against COVID-19 in Europe and North America, spikes in cases have occurred globally with particular severity in the winter of 2021 with the emergence of the Omicron variant. It appears, however, that even with the substantial uptick in cases, the COVID-19 virus has mutated in such a way that it is causing less severe infections, resulting in the imposition of less restrictive measures than had been in place in the winter of 2020. We expect the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects to continue to have a significant adverse impact on our business going forward. Our ultimate financial performance will depend on a number of factors relating to the world’s continued emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the threat of future variants of the virus that could prove deadlier or more contagious, requiring governments to again implement travel and mobility restrictions. Should our recovery from the pandemic progress more slowly than we have assumed or we suffer greater setbacks, this will likely have a significant adverse effect on our future financial performance.
We are unable to estimate the extent to which consumers will resume travel activities at the same level or in the same manner as was the case prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic appears to have accelerated long-term changes to industry structure that may have a significant adverse effect on our future competitiveness and profitability. Google has continued to expand its presence in the online travel industry and competition has increased more generally, the number of first time users of online travel services continues to decline changing the type of users we are able to refer to our largest online travel agency or OTA advertisers. Other changes prompted by the pandemic may persist, relating to travelers' increased preference for destinations (e.g., those other than cities) or accommodation types that we have historically been less well able to monetize or the fact that certain kinds of travel (e.g., business travel) may recover very slowly or not at all. The realization of any of these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We derive a large portion of our revenue from a relatively small number of advertisers and we have become increasingly reliant on one advertiser since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any further reduction in spending or any additional change in the bidding strategies by any of these advertisers could harm our business and negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our "cost-per-click," or CPC, pricing for click-based advertising depends, in part, on competition among advertisers on our marketplace, with advertisers that pay higher CPCs generally receiving better advertising placement and more referrals from us. We continue to generate the great majority of our revenue from our largest OTA advertisers, including, to an increasing extent since the start of the pandemic, brands affiliated with Booking Holdings, such as Booking.com and Agoda, and those affiliated with our majority shareholder, Expedia Group, such as Brand Expedia and Hotels.com. The loss of any of our major advertisers, on some or all of our platforms, or a further reduction in the amount they spend, or a further concentration in Advertising Spend by one advertiser could result in significant decreases in our revenue and profit or negative impacts on our liquidity position. We experienced a significant reduction in revenue in 2020 when advertisers reduced their spend on our platform or deactivated their campaigns entirely. In 2021 our major advertisers resumed marketing activities on our platform but at levels significantly below those in 2019. We believe our relative share of the advertising budgets of our major advertisers has declined compared to that period.
Our ability to grow and maintain revenue from our advertisers is dependent to a significant extent on our ability to generate referrals, customers, bookings or revenue and profit for our advertisers on a basis they deem to be cost-effective. Any reduction in the value that we deliver to our advertisers or our ability to match the value delivered by our competitors may negatively affect CPC bids on our marketplace. Our advertisers’ spend on our platforms may also be adversely affected by other factors such as a weakening of their own financial or business conditions or external economic effects, including the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry in general.
Even if we improve our product and deliver value to our advertisers, the fact that a significant portion of our revenue is generated from brands affiliated with Booking Holdings and Expedia Group can permit these advertisers, depending on marketplace dynamics, to adjust their CPC bids and obtain the same or increased levels of referrals, customers, bookings or revenue and profit at lower cost. This can occur if one or more advertisers with sufficient market share to influence our aggregate CPC levels change their return-on-investment targets for their spend on our marketplace. Our advertisers may also change their CPC bidding on our marketplace in response to changes we may make to our sorting and ranking algorithm, which may also, in turn, negatively impact our revenue levels and profitability or increase the volatility on our marketplace.
We are subject to a number of factors that contribute to significant period-to-period volatility in our financial condition and results of operations.
Our financial condition and results of operations have varied and may continue to vary considerably from period to period. This was reflected in the quarter-to-quarter changes in our profitability and revenue in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot reliably predict our advertisers' future advertising spend or CPC levels or other strategic goals they hope to achieve through changes in bidding on our marketplace and, as a result, it is difficult for us to forecast advertiser demand, especially since our advertisers can and often do change their CPC bidding levels with little or no notice to us. We believe that our advertisers continuously review their advertising spend on our platform and on other marketing channels, and continuously seek to optimize the allocation of their spend among us and our competitors. In particular, we regularly compete with our advertisers in auctions for search engine keywords on Google and other search engines, and adjust our spend on search engine marketing based on trends we see in our results. If changes in large advertisers' strategies on our marketplace were to cause us to spend significantly less on these marketing channels, we would also generate fewer Qualified Referrals, and as a result, our revenues and results of operations would be adversely affected. Such advertisers may also
experience improvements in their competitiveness on these marketing channels, providing them with additional financial benefits from pursuing such a strategy.
Furthermore, any resulting changes in Referral Revenue, especially as a result of changes in CPC bidding levels by our largest advertisers, could result in our inability to reduce our Advertising Spend, particularly on television, quickly enough to respond to the change in revenue. As we spend the great majority of our revenue on advertising, such a failure to reduce Advertising Spend quickly enough can have, and has in the past had, a sudden and significant adverse effect on our profitability and results of operations. Any resulting inability to meet financial guidance that we may communicate to the market in the future may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced and may in the future experience an impairment of goodwill.
As a result of the continued deterioration of our business due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we performed a goodwill impairment analysis during the first quarter of 2020, as a result of which we recorded an impairment charge of €207.6 million. While we have not recorded an impairment charge in 2021, we may record further impairment charges in the future due to the long-term economic or financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on us and our advertisers.
We are dependent on general economic conditions, and declines in travel or discretionary spending has reduced and in the future, could reduce the demand for our services.
Our results of operations and financial prospects are significantly dependent upon users of our services and the prosperity and solvency of the OTAs, hotel chains and independent hotels that have relationships with us. Travel, including hotel room reservations, is dependent on personal and business discretionary spending levels, which are directly affected by perceived or actual adverse economic conditions. Conditions such as slowing or negative economic growth, high unemployment rates and inflation, and government responses to such issues such as raised taxes or increased interest rates, have impaired, and could continue to impair, consumer discretionary spending. Any significant decline in travel, consumer discretionary spending or the occurrence of any of the foregoing conditions may reduce demand for our services. They can also cause advertisers to become financially distressed, insolvent or fail to pay us for services we have already provided. The occurrence of any of the above could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects, especially when considered together with the inherent attributes of our business discussed above that also contribute to period-to-period volatility in our financial results.
We expect that an almost complete stop to television advertising in 2020, resuming only at reduced levels in 2021, will continue to have a negative impact on the effectiveness of our advertising in coming years, impairing our ability to maintain and increase brand awareness. Our financial performance is dependent on the effectiveness of our Advertising Spend. Any inability to execute our advertising strategy could harm our business and negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We rely heavily on the trivago brand. Awareness, perceived quality and perceived differentiated attributes of our brand are important aspects of our efforts to attract and expand the number of users of our websites and apps. We significantly reduced our advertising budgets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and have seen many of our competitors do the same. We believe our prior television advertising campaigns continued to have a significant positive effect on direct traffic volumes, even in periods after the advertising was aired. As we almost completely ceased advertising on television in 2020 and resumed such advertising at reduced levels in 2021, we anticipate that we will not benefit in the same way from prior campaigns in the next years as had been the case in the past. Once we eventually resume significant marketing activities (particularly on TV), it will be difficult for us to predict our future marginal returns on Advertising Spend. In any event, we anticipate that we would need to invest in television advertising campaigns in the next years to rebuild our pre-pandemic direct traffic baseline.
In the future, our competitors may invest in innovative advertisement campaigns to improve their brand awareness, which could make it difficult for us to increase or maintain our own marginal returns on our advertisements. We may face this difficulty even if we make substantial investments in innovative technologies and concepts in our advertising. Increased advertising spend by our competitors, many of which have more resources than we do to promote their brands and services, could also result in significant increases in the pricing of one or more of our marketing and advertising channels, which could increase our costs for advertising (which already consume most of our revenue) or cause us to choose less costly but less effective marketing and advertising channels.
Television advertising has historically accounted for a large percentage of our Advertising Spend, and often has higher costs than other channels. We expect to continue to invest in television marketing campaigns, including in geographies where our brand is less well-known. As we make these investments, we may observe increasing prices in light of increased spending from competitors or may see reduced benefits from our advertising due to, among other things, increasing traffic share growth of search engines as destination sites for users and the declining viewership in certain age groups and changes in viewing patterns that reduce viewer exposure to advertising. In order to maintain or increase the effectiveness of our television advertisements, we have needed to develop new creative concepts in our advertisements, many of which are in a testing phase, and it may be that these advertisements may not be as effective in terms of Return on Advertising Spend as those we have used in the past. We have historically placed orders for television advertising in advance of the campaign season. In the event travel demand is lower than we anticipated at the time we booked that advertising, we could suffer losses if we are unable to cut planned spending.
We believe the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift from linear TV to digital formats and expect this trend to continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the downward trend of conventional television viewership in favor of streaming platforms and online video, we have begun investing in other channels that could potentially have a lower marginal Return on Advertising Spend. For example, in order to maintain our brand awareness, we have begun investing in other advertising formats, such as online video, with which we have less experience and which may prove less effective than TV advertising in the long run. If we are unable to maintain or enhance consumer awareness of our brand or to generate demand in a cost-effective manner, it may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Increasing competition in our industry could result in a loss of market share and higher traffic acquisition costs or reduce the value of our services to users and a loss of users, which would adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We operate in an increasingly competitive travel industry. Many of our current and potential competitors, including hotels themselves (both hotel chains and independent hotels), and metasearch engines, such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, Skyscanner and Google Hotel Ads, locally focused metasearch engines, such as Qunar, OTAs, such as Booking.com, Ctrip, trip.com and Brand Expedia, alternative accommodation websites, such as Airbnb and Vrbo (previously HomeAway), and other hotel websites, may have been in existence longer, may have larger user bases, may have wider ranges of products and services and may have greater brand recognition and customer loyalty in certain markets and/or significantly greater financial, marketing, personnel, technical and other resources than we do. Some of these competitors may be able to offer products and services on more favorable terms than we can. Google Hotel Ads and other metasearch websites, continue to expand globally, are increasingly competitive, have access to large numbers of users, and, in some cases, continue to adopt strategies and develop technologies and websites that are very similar to ours. In particular, Google has entered various aspects of the online travel market and has grown rapidly in this area, including by offering a flight meta-search product ("Google Flights"), a hotel meta-search product ("Google Hotel Ads"), a vacation rental meta-search product, its "Book on Google" reservation functionality, Google Travel, a planning tool that aggregates its flight, hotel and packages products in one website, and by integrating its hotel meta-search products and restaurant information and reservation products into its Google Maps app. Competition could result in higher traffic acquisition costs, lower CPC levels and reduced margins on our advertising services, loss of market share, reduced user traffic to our websites and reduced advertising by hotel companies and other accommodation advertisers on our websites. In addition, the competitive structure of the online travel industry has changed significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may make it difficult to regain our pre-pandemic market share. If fewer advertisers choose to advertise on our website, we will have less information available to display, which already appeared to be the case in 2021, which makes our services less valuable to users.
We rely on search engines, particularly Google, to drive a substantial amount of traffic to our platform. If Google continues to promote its own products and services that compete directly with our accommodation search at the expense of traditional keyword auctions and organic search, our business, financial performance and prospects may be negatively impacted.
We rely on Bing, Google, Naver, Yahoo! and other Internet search engines to generate a substantial amount of traffic to our websites, principally through the purchase of hotel-related keywords. We obtain a significant amount of traffic via search engines and therefore utilize techniques such as search engine optimization and search engine marketing to improve our placement in relevant search queries. The number of users we attract from search engines to our platform is due in large part to how and where information from, and links to, our websites is displayed on search engine pages. Google and other search engines frequently update and change the logic that determines the placement and display of results of a user’s search. If a major search engine changes its algorithms in a manner that negatively affects the search engine ranking, paid or unpaid, of our websites or that of our third-party distribution partners, or if competitive dynamics impact the costs or effectiveness of search engine optimization, search engine marketing or other traffic generating arrangements in a negative manner, it may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. In addition, if search engines, especially smaller players, decline in popularity, we may see adverse impacts as they provide us with fewer relevant leads or even shut down their services completely, resulting in even less competition in general search. In some instances, search and metasearch companies may change their displays or rankings in order to promote their own competing products or services or the products or services of one or more of our competitors. For example, Google, a significant source of traffic to our website, frequently promotes its own hotel search platform (which it refers to as “Hotel Ads”) at the expense of traditional keyword auctions and organic search results. This presents a challenge since we have significantly less flexibility to acquire traffic for our website using that platform compared to
traditional hotel-related keyword advertising. In addition, our major advertisers might not be amenable in some cases to our using their inventory to compete with them on Hotel Ads, which may present a further difficulty if Google continues to direct traffic in this manner. Google’s promotion of its own competing products, or similar actions by Google in the future that have the effect of reducing our prominence or ranking on its search results, could have a substantial negative effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
If we are unable to implement our strategic plans successfully, we may be unable to achieve our objectives, or we may incur further losses, and our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
We have begun to explore potential ways that we can expand our value proposition beyond our historical focus on accommodation search. In 2022, we plan to continue to focus on, in addition to improving our core product of accommodation search, offering inspiration through upper-funnel products and launching and scaling new business-to-business (B2B) solutions, such as offering white label services to partners. Many of our competitors, including the large OTAs, have substantially more experience with respect to monetizing content and offering various industry participants B2B solutions and have access to more content to promote user interaction with an inspirational product. If our efforts to improve our product, to enhance customers' experience and retention, to monetize additional lines of B2B solutions and to create more inspirational content are unsuccessful, or if our competitors can provide more attractive advertising terms or products to potential advertisers or more attractive content to users, we may be unable to improve our financial performance to the same extent as we plan or at all. As we begin to launch and scale B2B solutions that will refer traffic to our advertisers from more diverse sources, we may be unable to monetize traffic at levels we have achieved in the past. The materialization of any of these risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
If we do not continue to innovate and provide tools and services that are useful to users and advertisers, we may not remain competitive, and our revenue and results of operations could suffer.
Our success depends on continued innovation to provide features and services that make our websites and apps useful for users. In addition, our competitors are constantly innovating in online hotel-related services and features. As a result, we must continue to invest significant resources in research and development to continuously improve the speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness of our services. The emergence of alternative platforms and the emergence of niche competitors who may be able to optimize services or strategies such platforms have required, and will continue to require, new and costly investments in technology. We have invested, and in the future may invest, in new business strategies and services to maintain competitive. Some of the changes we are implementing may prioritize the quality of user experience over short-term monetization. These strategies and services may not succeed, and, even if successful, our revenue may not increase. In addition, we may fail to adopt and adapt to new technology, especially as Internet search, including through Google and Amazon, potentially moves from a text to voice interface over the coming years, or we may not be successful in developing technologies that operate effectively across multiple devices and platforms. New developments in other areas could also make it easier for competitors to enter our markets due to lower up-front technology costs. If we are unable to continue offering innovative services or do not provide sufficiently comprehensive results for our users, we may be unable to attract additional users and advertisers or retain our current users and advertisers, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
If we do not provide a broad set of offers to our users, we may not remain competitive, and our revenue and results of operations could suffer.
Our ability to attract users to our services depends in large part on providing a comprehensive set of search results and a broad range of offers across price ranges. To do so, we maintain relationships with OTAs, hotel chains and independent hotels to include their data in our search results. Although we maintain a very large searchable database of hotels from around the world, we do not have relationships with some significant potential advertisers, including some major hotel chains, many independent hotels, smaller chains and certain large providers of alternative accommodations. In addition, consolidation among advertisers, which may occur at increasing levels because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or a change to more coordinated or centralized marketing activities within OTA groups and hotel chains, could reduce the number of offers we have available in our marketplace for each hotel. In recent periods, the large OTAs have moderated their performance marketing spend and have publicly emphasized their desire to increase the efficiency of their performance marketing spend. The reduced participation by existing advertisers in our marketplace or our inability to continue to add more accommodation inventory to our platform may reduce the comprehensiveness of our search results, which could reduce user confidence in the search results we provide, making us less popular and could, because there are fewer offers made on our marketplace, enable advertisers to bid less for offers.
Several of our product features depend, in part, on our relationship with third parties to provide us with content and services.
We currently license, and incorporate into our websites, content and technology services from third parties. As we continue to improve the overall quality of our products, we may introduce new features that require us to incorporate new content or services, and that may require us to license additional rights. We cannot be sure that such technology will be available on commercially reasonable terms, if at all. In particular, certain third parties provide us with consumer reviews that we provide to our users along with our proprietary rating scores. If any of our third-party data providers terminate their relationships with us, the information that we provide to users may be limited or the quality of the information may suffer, which may negatively affect the implementation of our strategic initiatives, users’ perception of the value of our product and our reputation.
Many events beyond our control, including geopolitical events, may adversely affect the travel industry.
Many events beyond our control can adversely affect the travel industry, with a corresponding negative impact on our business and results of operations. Natural disasters, including hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, as well as other natural phenomena, such as outbreaks of the Zika virus, the Ebola virus, avian flu and, most recently, COVID-19, as well as other pandemics and epidemics, have disrupted normal travel patterns and levels in the past. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on our global business volumes in 2020 and 2021. The travel industry is also sensitive to events that may discourage travel, such as work stoppages or labor unrest, political instability, regional hostilities, increases in fuel prices, imposition of taxes or surcharges by regulatory authorities, travel-related accidents and terrorist attacks or threats. The recent action of the Russian military forces and support personnel against Ukraine has escalated tensions between Russia and the United States, NATO, the EU and the United Kingdom. Should tensions continue to escalate, travel activity levels, particularly in Europe, may be negatively affected. We do not have insurance coverage against loss or business interruption resulting from war and terrorism, and we may be unable to fully recover any losses we sustain due to other factors beyond our control under our existing insurance coverage. The occurrence of any of the foregoing events may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our global operations expose us to risks associated with currency fluctuations, which may adversely affect our business.
Our platform is available in a large number of jurisdictions outside the Eurozone. As a result, we face exposure to movements in currency exchange rates around the world. Changes in foreign exchange rates can amplify or mute changes in the underlying trends in our Advertising Spend, revenue and Revenue per Qualified Referral. A large portion of our advertising expenses are incurred in the local currency of the particular geographic market in which we advertise, with a significant amount incurred in U.S. dollar. Although we largely denominate our CPCs in euro and have relatively little direct foreign currency translation with respect to our revenue, we believe that our advertisers’ decisions on the share of their booking revenue they are willing to pay to us are based on the currency in which the hotels being booked are priced. Accordingly, we have observed that advertisers tend to adjust their CPC bidding based on the relative strengthening or weakening of the euro as compared to the local functional currency in which the booking with our advertisers is denominated. Currency exchange-related exposures also include but are not limited to re-measurement gains and losses from changes in the value of foreign denominated monetary assets and liabilities; translation gains and losses on foreign subsidiary financial results that are translated into euro upon consolidation; fluctuations in hotel revenue and planning risk related to changes in exchange rates between the time we prepare our annual and quarterly forecasts and when actual results occur.
We do not currently hedge our foreign exchange exposure. Depending on the size of the exposures and the relative movements of exchange rates, if we choose not to hedge or fail to hedge effectively our exposure, we could experience a material adverse effect on our financial statements and financial condition. As we have seen in some recent periods, in the event of severe volatility in foreign exchange rates, these exposures can increase, and the impact on our results of operations can be more pronounced. In addition, the current environment and the global nature of our business have made hedging these exposures more complex.
We are subject to counterparty default risks.
We are subject to the risk that a counterparty to one or more of our customer arrangements will default on its performance obligations. A counterparty may fail to comply with its commercial commitments, which could then lead it to default on its obligations with little or no notice to us. This could limit our ability to take action to mitigate our exposure. Additionally, our ability to mitigate our exposures may be constrained by the terms of our commercial arrangements or because market conditions prevent us from taking effective action. In addition, our ability to recover any funds from financially distressed or insolvent counterparties is limited, and our recovery rates in such instances have historically been very low. Because a majority of our accounts receivable are owed by Booking Holdings and Expedia Group, delays or a failure to pay by any of these advertisers could result in a significant increase in our credit losses, and we may be unable to fund our operations. These counterparties may also be located in countries where enforcement of our creditors’ rights is more difficult than in the countries where our major OTA advertisers are located. If one of our counterparties becomes insolvent or files for bankruptcy, our ability to recover any losses suffered as a result of that counterparty’s default may be limited by the liquidity of the counterparty or the applicable laws governing the bankruptcy proceedings, and in any event, the customers of that counterparty may seek redress from us, even though the booking with that counterparty was not conducted on our platform. In addition, almost all of our agreements with OTAs, hotel chains and independent hotels may be terminated at will or upon three to seven days’ prior notice by either party. In the event of such default or termination, we could incur significant losses or reduced revenue, which could adversely impact our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Legal and regulatory risks
We are involved in various legal proceedings and may experience unfavorable outcomes, which could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
We are involved in various legal proceedings and disputes involving alleged infringement of third-party intellectual property rights, competition and consumer protection laws, including, but not limited to, the legal proceedings described in the following risk factor and in Item 8A under "Legal Proceedings". These matters may involve claims for substantial amounts of money or for other relief that might necessitate changes to our business or operations. The defense of these actions has been, and will likely continue to be, both time consuming and expensive and the outcomes of these actions cannot be predicted with certainty. Determining provisions for pending litigation is a complex, fact-intensive process that requires significant legal judgment. It is possible that unfavorable outcomes in one or more such proceedings could result in substantial payments that would adversely affect our business, consolidated financial position, results of operations, or cash flows in a particular period.
The litigation in Australia could increase our expenses and will subject us to significant monetary penalties.
On August 23, 2018, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, or ACCC, instituted proceedings in the Australian Federal Court against us. The ACCC alleged a number of breaches of the Australian Consumer Law, or ACL, relating to certain advertisements in Australia concerning the hotel prices available on our Australian site, our Australian strike-through pricing practice and other aspects of the way offers for accommodation were displayed on our Australian website. The matter went to trial in September 2019 and, on January 20, 2020, the Australian Federal Court issued a judgment finding that we had engaged in conduct in breach of the ACL. On March 4, 2020, we filed a notice of appeal at the Australian Federal Court appealing part of that judgment. On November 4, 2020, the Australian Federal Court dismissed trivago’s appeal. On October 18 and 19, 2021, the Australian Federal Court heard submissions from the parties in relation to relief. In its submissions, the ACCC proposed a penalty of at least AUD90 million and an injunction restraining us from engaging in misleading conduct of the type found by the Australian Federal Court to be in contravention of the ACL. trivago submitted that an appropriate penalty for the court to impose would be in the order of up to AUD15 million. The court’s decision will be forthcoming.
Management recorded a provision of AUD15 million for the probable and currently estimable loss in connection with these proceedings within current other liabilities. The ultimate penalty amount could substantially exceed the level of provision that we established for this litigation. In establishing a provision in respect of the ACCC matter, management took into account the information currently available, including judicial precedents. However, there is considerable uncertainty regarding how the Australian Federal Court would calculate the penalties that will be ultimately assessed on us. In particular, the Australian Federal Court determined that we engaged in certain conduct after September 1, 2018 that will result in the applicability of the new penalty regime under the ACL, which significantly increased the maximum penalty applicable to parts of our conduct. Only a few cases have been decided so far assessing penalties for contraventions of the ACL under the new regime. In cases involving conduct before and after September 1, 2018, the Australian Federal Court in each case did not allocate the total penalty imposed between the old and new penalty regime. When assessing penalties, the Court does not apply any mathematical formula, but rather considers and weighs “all relevant matters”. Certain statutory maximum penalties serve, when balanced with all other relevant factors, as a yardstick for the court to assess penalties. In order to determine such maximum penalties under the new penalty regime, the court will need to consider whether the “value of the benefit received” by us can be determined and, if so, multiply it by three. Should the court determine that such benefit is not ascertainable, we would be subject to a maximum penalty per contravention equaling 10% of the turnover of the “body corporate”, and any related body corporate, for the preceding 12 months. It is unclear how a court might interpret these statutory provisions or how the court might otherwise exercise its considerable discretion in respect of these matters. Any penalty amount could substantially exceed the level of provision that we established
for this litigation. The ultimate penalties assessed in this case could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Regulators' continued focus on the consumer-facing business practices of online travel companies may adversely affect our business, financial performance, results of operations or business growth.
A number of regulatory authorities in Europe, Australia and elsewhere have initiated litigation and/or market studies, inquiries or investigations relating to online marketplaces and how information is presented to consumers using those marketplaces, including practices such as search results rankings and algorithms, discount claims, disclosure of charges, and availability and similar messaging. For example, on January 20, 2020, the Australian Federal Court issued a judgment in the ACCC’s case against us regarding our advertising and website display practices in Australia. Parts of the court’s opinion included views that differed significantly from those of other national regulators and raised concerns about the function of our marketplace and the adequacy of disclosures to consumers regarding how advertisers that pay higher CPCs generally receive better advertising placement on our website. Since then, two purported class actions have been filed in Israel and Ontario, Canada, making allegations about our advertising and/or display practices broadly similar to aspects of the case presented by the ACCC.
Should other national courts or regulators take a similar view of our business model to that of the Australian Federal Court and the ACCC, or should changes in our business practices or those prevalent in our sector brought about by the attention brought on by this litigation or other regulatory matters reduce the attractiveness, competitiveness or functionality of our platform and the services we offer, or should our reputation or that of our sector continue to suffer, or should we have to pay substantial amounts in respect or as a result of any such regulatory action or proceeding, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects could be adversely affected.
In addition, many governmental authorities in the markets in which we operate are also considering additional and potentially diverging legislative and regulatory proposals that would increase the level and complexity of regulation on Internet display, disclosure and advertising activities. For example, the national competent authorities of the EU and EEA countries have coordinated their actions, through the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) network, in order to address potential infringements of consumer protection legislation. EU regulators have also been cooperating with international counterparts on consumer protection issues internationally, such as within the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network. This and possible future related studies and inquiries may adversely affect the way trivago monetizes its offers on its sites. There also are, and will likely continue to be, an increasing number of laws and regulations pertaining to the Internet and online commerce that may relate to liability for information retrieved from, transmitted over or displayed on the Internet, display of certain taxes, charges and fees, online editorial, user-generated or other third-party content, user or other third-party privacy, data security, behavioral targeting and online advertising, taxation, liability for third-party activities and the quality of services.
We process, store and use user and employee personal data, which entails reputational, litigation and liability risks associated to any potential failure to protect such data from breaches or to comply with relevant legal obligations, which are constantly evolving.
Personal data information is increasingly subject to legislation and regulations in numerous jurisdictions around the world. We are in particular affected by the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (“GDPR”), in effect since May 18, 2018, which has recently led to the imposition of significant fines on various companies by EU data protection authorities. The invalidation of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and increase in focus and enforcement action from EU data protection authorities in relation to cross-border transfers of personal data, could have a significant adverse effect on our ability to engage with certain third party service providers where that would require a transfer of personal data outside of the EEA.
Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, the UK Government has transposed the GDPR into UK national law, creating the “UK GDPR”, which is complemented by the Data Protection Act 2018. The UK is in the process of developing a separate set of Standard Contractual Clauses for transfers from the UK to third countries.
The Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD), Federal Law no. 13,709/2018, is in force since September 18, 2020 and its penalties are enforceable since August 2021. The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) became effective in January 2020 and is substantially amended by the California Consumer Privacy Rights Acts, which will become operative in January 2023 and will impose new privacy requirements and rights for consumers in California.
A number of data protection laws (including the GDPR, the UK GDPR and the CCPA) have introduced mandatory breach reporting to regulators and, under certain circumstances, to the individuals whose personal data was compromised in the breach.
Many other jurisdictions are considering or are about to adopt data protection regulations, which are sometimes inconsistent or conflicting. While we strive to monitor and comply with this complex and ever-changing patchwork of laws, a failure or perceived or alleged failure to comply with data privacy requirements in one of the jurisdictions where we operate or target users may significantly harm our businesses. In addition, we could be adversely affected if data privacy regulations are expanded (through new regulation or through legal rulings) to require major changes in our business practices.
Changes in, and continued implementation and enforcement of, international trade and anti-corruption laws and regulations could affect our ability to remain in compliance with such laws and regulations and could have a materially adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
The United States (acting through, among other government agencies, the SEC, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), as well as other foreign authorities, such as the United Kingdom, continue to be focused on the implementation and enforcement of economic and trade and anti-corruption laws and regulations, across industries. For example, U.S. sanctions generally prohibit transactions conducted within U.S. jurisdiction in, with, involving or relating to certain countries and territories subject to comprehensive sanctions, including, currently, the Crimea region of the Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria, and certain specifically designated individuals and entities (including those individuals and entities listed on OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List), as well as parties owned by such designated individuals and entities. We believe that our activities comply with applicable trade and anti-corruption laws and regulations, including the laws and regulations administered and enforced by OFAC, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the U.K. Bribery Act. As applicable laws and regulations are enacted or amended, and the interpretations of those laws and regulations evolve, we cannot guarantee that our programs and policies will be deemed compliant by all applicable regulatory authorities. In the event that our controls should fail or are found to be not in compliance for any reasons, including as a result of changes to our products and services or the behavior of our advertisers, we could be subject to monetary damages, civil and criminal penalties, litigation and damage to our reputation and the value of our brand.
We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could harm the value of our brand and adversely affect our business.
We regard our intellectual property as critical to our success, and we rely on trademark and confidentiality and license agreements to protect our proprietary rights. If we are not successful in protecting our intellectual property, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Effective trademark and service mark protection may not be available in every country in which our services are provided. The laws of certain countries do not protect proprietary rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States and, therefore, in certain jurisdictions, we may be unable to protect our proprietary technology adequately against unauthorized third-party copying or use, which could adversely affect our competitive position. In addition, certain characteristics of the Internet, in particular the anonymity, may make the protection and enforcement of our intellectual property difficult and in some cases, even impossible. We have licensed in the past, and expect to license in the future, certain of our proprietary rights, such as trademarks, to third parties. These licensees may take actions that might diminish the value of our proprietary rights or harm our reputation, even if we have agreements prohibiting such activity. Moreover, we utilize intellectual property and technology developed or licensed by third parties, and we may not be able to obtain or continue to obtain licenses and technologies from these third parties at all or on reasonable terms. Also, to the extent that third parties are obligated to indemnify us for breaches of our intellectual property rights, these third parties may be unable to meet these obligations. Any of these events may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We have registered domain names for websites that we use in our business, such as www.trivago.com, www.trivago.de, www.trivago.co.uk and weekend.com. Our competitors could attempt to capitalize on our brand recognition by using domain names similar to ours. Domain names similar to ours have been registered in the United States and elsewhere, and in some countries the top-level domain name “trivago,” or spelling variations of it, may be owned by other parties. We may be unable to prevent third parties from acquiring and using domain names that infringe on, are similar to, or otherwise decrease the value of, our brand or our trademarks or service marks. Protecting and enforcing our rights to our domain names and determining the rights of others may require litigation, which, whether or not successful, could result in substantial costs and diversion of management attention, as well as a loss in customer trust in the brand.
The competition for highly skilled personnel, including senior management and technology professionals is intense. If we are unable to retain or motivate key personnel or hire, retain, and motivate qualified personnel, our business would be harmed.
We believe our success has depended, and continues to depend, on the efforts and talents of our senior management and our highly skilled team members, including our software engineers and other technology professionals who are key to designing code and algorithms necessary to our business. In 2020, we implemented significant headcount reductions and in 2021, we undertook a reorganization to streamline our business (see “Item 4: Information on the company - C. Organizational structure" for further information on the reorganization). The reduction in workforce in 2020 resulted in the loss of institutional knowledge, relationships or expertise for critical roles. The reorganization may also have a negative impact on employee morale and productivity, and could make it more difficult to retain valuable key employees, divert attention from operating our business, create personnel capacity constraints and hamper our ability to grow, develop innovative products and compete, any of which could impede our ability to operate or meet strategic objectives.
As travel further recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, we may need to hire qualified individuals, which is typically a time-consuming process. We believe our competitors are in a similar situation and we are therefore facing intense competition for new talent. We compete with companies that have far greater
financial resources than we do as well as companies that promise short-term growth opportunities and/or other benefits. These companies may be able to provide attractive offers to employees in critical roles who have gained valuable and marketable experience in our flat organizational structure. The competition for talent in our industry has in the past and may in the future increase our personnel expenses, which may adversely affect our results of operations. In addition, we may be unable to hire or retain certain high-performing employees when the price of our ADSs is low, as a significant portion of the compensation they receive consists of equity grants. If we do not succeed in attracting well-qualified employees, or retaining or motivating existing employees, including senior management, our business would be adversely affected. The loss of the services of any key individual could negatively affect our business.
We are dependent upon the quality of traffic in our network to provide value to our travel partners, and any failure in our ability to deliver quality traffic and/or the metrics to demonstrate the value of the traffic could have a material and adverse impact on the value of our websites to our travel partners and adversely affect our revenue.
We use technology and processes to monitor the quality of the internet traffic that we deliver to our travel partners and have identified metrics to demonstrate the quality of that traffic and identify low quality clicks such as non-human processes, including robots, spiders, the mechanical automation of clicking and other types of invalid clicks or click fraud. Even with such monitoring in place, there is a risk that a certain amount of low-quality traffic will be delivered to such online advertisers. Such low-quality or invalid traffic may be detrimental to our relationships with travel partners and could adversely affect our advertising pricing and revenue.
We rely on assumptions, estimates and data to make decisions about our business, and any inaccuracies in, or misinterpretation of, such information could negatively impact our business.
We take a data-driven, testing-based approach to managing our business, where we use our proprietary tools and processes to measure and optimize end-to-end performance of our platform. Our ability to analyze and rapidly respond to the internal data we track enables us to improve our platform and make decisions about allocating marketing spend and ultimately convert any improvements into increased revenue. While the internal data we use to judge the effectiveness of changes to our platform and to make improvements to how we make decisions about allocating Advertising Spend are based on what we believe to be reasonable assumptions and estimates, our internal tools are not independently verified by a third party and have a number of limitations. We only have access to limited information about user behavior compared to many of our competitors that in many cases can record detailed information about users who log onto their websites or who complete a booking or other transaction with them.
operational expenses, digital services tax or other taxes of a similar nature make it more difficult for us to measure the marginal efficiency of our Advertising Spend among marketing channels as such taxes affect not only how we allocate our spend but also how these marketing channels and our advertisers make decisions about their businesses.
If the internal tools we use to judge the effectiveness of changes to our platform produce or are based on information that is incomplete or inaccurate, or we do not have access to important information, or if we are not sufficiently rigorous in our analysis of that information, or if such information is the result of algorithm or other technical or methodological errors, the decisions we make relating to our website, marketplace and allocation of marketing spend may not result in the positive effects in terms of profitability, revenue and user experience that we expect, which may negatively impact our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
In the past, we identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting. If the measures we have implemented, including internal controls, fail to be effective in the future, any such failure could result in material misstatements of our financial statements, cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial and other public information, harm our business and adversely impact the trading price of our ADSs.
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining internal controls over financial reporting, disclosure controls, and compliance with other requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the rules promulgated by the SEC thereunder. Internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. In addition, our independent registered public accounting firm is required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Satisfying these requirements requires us to dedicate a significant amount of time and resources, including for the development, implementation, evaluation and testing of our internal controls over financial reporting. Although no material weaknesses were identified in connection with the attestation of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2019, 2020 or 2021, our management cannot guarantee that our internal controls and disclosure controls will prevent all possible errors or fraud. In addition, the internal controls that we have implemented could fail to be effective in the future. This failure could result in material misstatements in our financial statements, result in the loss of investor confidence in the reliability of our financial statements and subject us to regulatory scrutiny and sanctions. This could, in turn, harm our business and the market value of our ADSs. In addition, we may be required to incur costs in improving our internal controls system and the hiring of additional personnel.
We may experience difficulties in implementing new business and financial systems.
We continue to transition certain business and financial systems to systems that reflect the size, scope and complexity of our operations. These systems include an internally developed tool to manage our invoicing and various third-party developed tools to assist us with internal system integration and financial management. The process of migrating our legacy systems could disrupt our ability to timely and accurately process and report key aspects of our financial statements as we will rely on these systems for information that is included in or otherwise relevant for our financial statements. In addition, while the implementation of these systems is intended to increase accuracy of financial reporting and reduce our reliance on manual procedures and actions, the transition may affect the accuracy of reporting as we align some of our processes. With respect to these systems, certain additional financial controls and processes will be required and may result in changes to the current control environment. These changes will need to be assessed for effective implementation and effectiveness in mitigating inherent risk in these processes. This evaluation could result in deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting, including material weaknesses, in future periods. Any difficulties in implementing the new software or
related failures of our internal control over financial reporting could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects, and could cause harm to our reputation.
Increased computer circumvention capabilities could result in security breaches in our information systems, which may significantly harm our business.
We cannot guarantee that our security measures or the security measures of external service providers will prevent all security breaches, intrusions or attacks, as computer circumvention tools and techniques become more advanced. A party that is able to circumvent our security systems or the systems of an external service provider could improperly obtain confidential information or cause significant disruptions to our operations. In the past, we have experienced cyber-related fraud and “denial-of-service” type of attacks on our system, which have made portions of our website unavailable for periods of time. Any actions that impact the availability of our website or apps could cause a loss of substantial business volume during the occurrence of any such incident and such risks are likely to increase as the tools to carry out such actions become more advanced and sophisticated. In addition to the considerable resources needed to address or mitigate their effects, security breaches could result in reputational harm and negative publicity with users and advertisers whether existing or potential, losing confidence in the security of our systems.
Security breaches could also expose us to risk of loss and possible liability and subject us to regulatory or criminal penalties and sanctions as well as civil litigation, including under various data protection laws.
Any significant disruption in service on our websites and apps or in our computer systems, most of which are currently hosted by third-party providers, could damage our reputation and result in a loss of users, which would harm our business and results of operations.
Our brand, reputation and ability to attract and retain users to use our websites and apps depend upon the reliable performance of our network infrastructure and content delivery processes. We have experienced interruptions in these systems in the past, including server failures that temporarily slowed down the performance of our websites and apps, in particular as we opted to use more cloud-based services. We may experience service interruptions in the future. Interruptions in these systems, whether due to system failures, computer viruses or physical or electronic break-ins, could affect the security or availability of our services on our websites and apps and prevent or inhibit the ability of users to access our service, which, in turn, can have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, business and results of operation. Problems with the reliability or security of our systems could harm our reputation. Damage to our reputation and the cost of remedying these problems could negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
While we still lease or own servers for internal communication and services, our systems mostly rely on cloud-hosted services. We are therefore reliant upon external providers, including Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, to provide us with cloud computing infrastructure. Any disruption to our use of services furnished by these providers or an unanticipated increase in costs from using those services could negatively impact our business operations. Our systems and operations are vulnerable to damage or interruption from fire, flood, power loss, telecommunications failure, terrorist attacks, acts of war, electronic and physical break-ins, computer viruses, earthquakes and similar events. The occurrence of any of the foregoing events could result in damage to our systems or could cause them to fail completely, and our insurance may not cover such events or may be insufficient to compensate us for losses that may occur.
Our systems are not completely redundant worldwide, so a failure of our system at one site could result in reduced functionality for our users, and a total failure of our systems could cause our websites or apps to be inaccessible to our users. Problems faced by our third-party service providers with the telecommunications network providers with which they contract or with the systems by which they allocate capacity among their users, including us, could adversely affect the experience of our users. Our third-
party service providers could decide to close their facilities without adequate notice. Any financial difficulties, such as bankruptcy or reorganization, faced by our third-party service providers or any of the service providers with whom they contract may have negative effects on our business, the nature and extent of which are difficult to predict. If our third-party service providers are unable to keep up with our growing needs for capacity, this could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. Any errors, defects, disruptions or other performance problems with our services could harm our reputation and may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We rely on information technology to operate our business and maintain our competitiveness, and any failure to invest in and adapt to technological developments and industry trends could harm our business.
We depend on the use of sophisticated information technologies and systems, including technology and systems used for websites and apps, customer service, supplier connectivity, communications, fraud detection and administration. As our operations grow in size, scope and complexity, we need to continuously improve and upgrade our systems and infrastructure to offer an increasing number of user-enhanced services, features and functionalities, while maintaining or improving the reliability and integrity of our systems and infrastructure. In addition, we may not be able to maintain our existing systems or replace or introduce new technologies and systems as quickly as we would like or in a cost-effective manner. If these changes result in our infrastructure being unreliable or if they do not result in the benefits we anticipate, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects could be adversely affected.
Our brand is subject to reputational risks and impairment.
We have developed our trivago brand through extensive marketing campaigns, website promotions, customer referrals and the use of a dedicated sales force. We cannot guarantee that our brand will not be damaged by circumstances that are outside our control or by third parties, such as hackers, or interfaces with their clients, such as subcontractors’ employees or sales forces, with a resulting negative impact on our activities. For example, the independent actors we have relied on in various countries where we advertise have come to represent our brand, such as “Mr. trivago” in the United States and “the trivago girl” in Australia. The actions of such actors are not in our control, and negative publicity about such actors may have affected our brand image. We may be subject to negative press accounts or other negative publicity regarding our product, brand or business practices, which may, among other things, cause us reputational harm. Such negative publicity may become more prevalent as a result of announced or future regulatory investigations or litigation relating to practices in our marketplace and related online travel-related market segments. We believe this occurred when the Australian Federal Court issued a judgment finding that we had engaged in conduct in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Social media’s reach may magnify any negative publicity and messages can “go viral” necessitating effective crisis response in real time. A failure on our part to protect our image, reputation and the brand under which we market our products and services may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We are subject to risks associated with a corporate culture that promotes entrepreneurialism among our employees and continuous learning.
We have delegated considerable operational autonomy and responsibility to our employees, including allowing our employees flexible working hours that allow them to determine when, where and for how long they work. We also often make changes to our internal organizational structure to support operational autonomy and individual advancement. As a consequence, people in key positions may have less experience in the relevant operational areas. As our employees have significant autonomy and may lack
experience when performing new operational roles, this could result in poor decision-making. We have also implemented remote working for our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and plan to permit employees flexibility in this regard going forward. Our remote working arrangements may result in a less cohesive corporate culture, thereby negatively affecting our operations. In addition, our competitors may offer more operational autonomy and flexibility in regard to remote work, which may, in turn, make it difficult for us to retain and motivate our employees. The realization of any of these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Integration of acquired assets and businesses could result in operating difficulties and other harmful consequences.
We have made small strategic acquisitions in the past such as the recent acquisition of weekengo GmbH ("Weekengo") in 2021, which operates the online travel search website “weekend.com” and specializes in optimizing the delivery of search results for direct flights and hotel packages with a short-trip focus. We expect to continue to evaluate a wide array of potential strategic transactions. We could enter into transactions that could be material to our financial condition and results of operations. The process of integrating an acquired company, business or technology may create unforeseen operating difficulties and expenditures. The areas where we face risks in respect of acquisitions such as that of Weekengo and subsequent integrations include:
•diversion of management time and focus from operating our business to acquisition diligence, negotiation and closing processes, as well as post-closing integration challenges;
•implementation or remediation of controls, procedures and policies at the acquired company;
•coordination of product, engineering and sales and marketing functions;
•retention of key employees from the businesses we acquire;
•responsibility for liabilities or obligations associated with activities of the acquired company before the acquisition;
•litigation or other claims in connection with the acquired company; and
•in the case of foreign acquisitions, the need to integrate operations across different geographies, cultures and languages and to address the particular economic, currency, political and regulatory risks associated with specific countries.
Furthermore, companies that we have acquired, and that we may acquire in the future, may employ security and networking standards at levels we find unsatisfactory. The process of enhancing infrastructure to improve security and network standards may be time-consuming and expensive and may require resources and expertise that are difficult to obtain. Acquisitions could also increase the number of potential vulnerabilities and could cause delays in detection of a security breach, or the timeliness of recovery from a breach. Failure to adequately protect against attacks or intrusions could expose us to security breaches of, among other things, personal user data and credit card information that may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our failure to address these risks or other problems encountered in connection with our past or future acquisitions and investments could delay or eliminate any anticipated benefits of such acquisitions or investments, incur unanticipated liabilities and may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Risks related to our ongoing relationship with our shareholders
Expedia Group controls our company and has the ability to control the direction of our business.
As of December 31, 2021, Expedia Group owned Class B shares representing 58.3% of our issued share capital and 76.9% of the voting power in us. As long as Expedia Group owns a majority of the voting power in us, and pursuant to certain rights it has under the Amended and Restated Shareholders’ Agreement, Expedia Group will be able to control many corporate actions that require a shareholder vote.
This voting control limits the ability of other shareholders to influence corporate matters and, as a result, we may take actions that shareholders other than Expedia Group do not view as beneficial. This voting control may also discourage transactions involving a change of control of our company, including transactions in which you as a holder of ADSs (representing our Class A shares) might otherwise receive a premium for your shares. Furthermore, Expedia Group generally has the right at any time to sell or otherwise dispose of any Class A shares and Class B shares that it owns, including the ability to transfer a controlling interest in us to a third party, without the approval of the holders of our Class A shares and without providing for the purchase of Class A shares.
The Founders have contractual rights to exert control over certain aspects of our business.
Pursuant to the Amended and Restated Shareholder’s Agreement, the Founders have contractual rights to exert control over certain aspects of our business. For example, subject to certain exceptions, as long as the Founders collectively maintain holdings of at least 15% of our outstanding Class A shares and Class B shares (taking into account, for purposes of determining such percentage, each security convertible into or exchangeable for, and any option, warrant, or other right to purchase or otherwise acquire, any share), they (i) have the right to nominate three members of the supervisory board, and (ii) a Founder must consent to certain corporate matters. This second requirement limits the ability of ELPS to control certain corporate matters and, as a result, we may fail to take actions that other shareholders may view as beneficial. This contractual control may also discourage transactions involving a change of control or sale of substantially all assets of our company, including transactions in which you as a holder of ADSs representing our Class A shares might otherwise receive a premium for your shares or dividend of proceeds representing a premium price for such assets.
Expedia Group’s interests may conflict with our interests, the interests of the Founders and the interests of our shareholders, and conflicts of interest among Expedia Group, the Founders and us could be resolved in a manner unfavorable to us and our shareholders.
Various conflicts of interest among us, the Founders and Expedia Group could arise. Ownership interests of directors or officers of Expedia Group in our shares, and ownership interests of members of our management board and supervisory board in the stock of Expedia Group, or a person’s service as either a director or officer of both companies, could create or appear to create potential conflicts of interest, including when those directors and officers are faced with decisions relating to our company. In recent years, Expedia Group, and brands affiliated with it, consistently accounted for a substantial portion of our revenues.
Potential conflicts of interest could also arise if we decide to enter into any new commercial arrangements with Expedia Group’s businesses in the future or in connection with Expedia Group’s desire to enter into new commercial arrangements with third parties. Expedia Group has the right to separately pursue acquisitions of businesses that we may also be interested in acquiring, or companies that may directly compete with us. Expedia Group may choose to pursue these corporate opportunities directly rather than through trivago.
Furthermore, disputes may arise between Expedia Group and us relating to our past and ongoing relationships, and these potential conflicts of interest may make it more difficult for us to favorably resolve such disputes, including those related to:
•tax, employee benefit, indemnification and other matters;
•the nature, quality and pricing of services Expedia Group agrees to provide to us;
•sales, other disposals, purchases or other acquisitions by Expedia Group of shares in us (including when our share price is lower than in comparable prior periods); and
•business combinations involving us.
We may not be able to resolve any potential conflicts, and even if we do, the resolution may be less favorable to us than if we were dealing with an unaffiliated party. While we are controlled by Expedia Group, we may not have the leverage to negotiate amendments to these agreements, if required, on terms as favorable to us as those we would negotiate directly with an unaffiliated third party.
Risks related to ownership of our Class A shares and ADSs
You may not be able to exercise your right to vote the Class A shares underlying your ADSs.
Holders of ADSs may exercise voting rights with respect to the Class A shares represented by their ADSs only in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. The deposit agreement provides that, upon receipt of notice of any meeting of holders of our Class A shares, including any general meeting of our shareholders, the depositary will, as soon as practicable thereafter, fix a record date for the determination of ADS holders who shall be entitled to give instructions for the exercise of voting rights. Upon timely receipt of notice from us, the depositary shall distribute to the holders as of the record date (i) the notice of the meeting or solicitation of consent or proxy sent by us, (ii) a statement that such holder will be entitled to give the depositary instructions and a statement that such holder may be deemed, if the depositary has appointed a proxy bank as set forth in the deposit agreement, to have instructed the depositary to give a proxy to the proxy bank to vote the Class A shares underlying the ADSs in accordance with the recommendations of the proxy bank and (iii) a statement as to the manner in which instructions may be given by the holders.
You may instruct the depositary of your ADSs to vote the Class A shares underlying your ADSs. Otherwise, you will not be able to exercise your right to vote unless you withdraw our Class A shares underlying the ADSs you hold. However, you may not know about the meeting far enough in advance to withdraw those Class A shares. The depositary, upon timely notice from us, will notify you of the upcoming vote and arrange to deliver voting materials to you. We cannot guarantee that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote the Class A shares underlying your ADSs. In addition, the depositary and its agents are not responsible for failing to carry out voting instructions or for the manner of carrying out voting instructions. This means that you may not be able to exercise your right to vote, and there may be nothing you can do if the Class A shares underlying your ADSs are not voted as you had requested.
Under the deposit agreement for the ADSs, we may choose to appoint a proxy bank. In this event, the depositary will be deemed to have been instructed to give a proxy to the proxy bank to vote the Class A shares underlying your ADSs at shareholders’ meetings if you do not vote in a timely fashion and in the manner specified by the depositary.
The effect of this proxy is that you cannot prevent the Class A shares representing your ADSs from being voted, and it may make it more difficult for shareholders to exercise influence over our company, which could adversely affect your interests. Direct holders of our Class A shares are not subject to this proxy.
You may not receive distributions on the Class A shares represented by our ADSs or any value for them if it is illegal or impractical to make them available to holders of ADSs.
The depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to you the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian receives on our Class A shares after deducting its fees and expenses. You will receive these
distributions in proportion to the number of our Class A shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary is not responsible if it decides that it is unlawful or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. We have no obligation to take any other action to permit the distribution to any holders of our ADSs or Class A shares. This means that you may not receive the distributions we make on our Class A shares or any value from them if it is illegal or impractical for us to make them available to you. These restrictions may have a material adverse effect on the value of your ADSs.
You may be subject to limitations on the transfer of your ADSs.
Your ADSs, which may be evidenced by American Depositary Receipts, are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. The depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of your ADSs generally when our books or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary think it is advisable to do so because of any requirement of law, government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason.
We do not expect to pay any dividends for the foreseeable future.
The continued operation of, and strategic initiatives for, our business will require substantial cash. Accordingly, we do not anticipate that we will pay any dividends on our ADSs for the foreseeable future. Any determination to pay dividends in the future will be at the discretion of our management board and will depend upon our results of operations, financial condition, contractual restrictions relating to indebtedness we may incur, restrictions imposed by applicable law and other factors our management board deems relevant.
Risks related to our corporate structure
The rights of shareholders in companies subject to Dutch corporate law differ in material respects from the rights of shareholders of corporations incorporated in the United States.
We are a Dutch public company with limited liability (naamloze vennootschap). Our corporate affairs are governed by our articles of association and by the laws governing companies incorporated in the Netherlands. The rights of shareholders and the responsibilities of members of our management board and supervisory board may be different from the rights and obligations of shareholders in companies governed by the laws of U.S. jurisdictions. In the performance of their duties, our management board and supervisory board are required by Dutch law to consider the interests of our company, its shareholders, its employees and other stakeholders. It is possible that some of these parties will have interests that are different from, or in addition to, your interests as a holder of ADSs representing our Class A shares.
We are not obligated to and do not comply with all the best practice provisions of the Dutch Corporate Governance Code (or the DCGC). This may affect your rights as a shareholder.
We are a Dutch public company with limited liability (naamloze vennootschap) and are subject to the DCGC. The DCGC contains both principles and best practice provisions for management boards, supervisory boards, shareholders and general meetings of shareholders, financial reporting, auditors, disclosure, compliance and enforcement standards. The DCGC applies to all Dutch companies listed on a government-recognized stock exchange, whether in the Netherlands or elsewhere, including Nasdaq.
The DCGC is based on a “comply or explain” principle. Accordingly, companies are required to disclose in their annual reports, filed in the Netherlands whether they comply with the provisions of the DCGC. If they do not comply with those provisions (e.g., because of a conflicting U.S. requirement), the company is required to give the reasons for such non-compliance. We do not comply with all the best practice
provisions of the DCGC. This may affect your rights as a shareholder and you may not have the same level of protection as a shareholder in a Dutch company that fully complies with the DCGC.
Our dual-class share structure with different voting rights, and certain provisions in the Amended and Restated Shareholders’ Agreement, limit your ability as a holder of Class A shares to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A shares may view as beneficial.
We have a dual-class share structure such that our share capital consists of Class A shares and Class B shares. In respect of matters requiring the votes of shareholders, based on our dual-class share structure, holders of Class A shares are entitled to one vote per share, while holders of Class B shares are entitled to ten votes per share. Each Class B share is convertible into one Class A share at any time by the holder thereof, while Class A shares are not convertible into Class B shares under any circumstances. Each of our ADSs represents one Class A share.
As of December 31, 2021, Expedia Group owned Class B shares representing 58.3% of our share capital and 76.9% of the voting power in us, and the Founders owned Class B shares representing 14.8% of our share capital and 19.5% of the voting power in us due to the disparate voting powers associated with our dual-class share structure. The Founders also hold Class A shares representing 6.4% of our share capital. See “ Item 7: Major shareholders and related party transactions”. As a result of the dual-class share structure and the concentration of ownership, as well as the terms of the Amended and Restated Shareholders’ Agreement, Expedia Group (through ELPS) and the Founders have considerable influence over matters such as decisions regarding mergers, consolidations and the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, appointment and dismissal of management board members and supervisory board members and other significant corporate actions. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could have the effect of depriving the holders of ADSs (representing Class A shares) of the opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and may reduce the price of our Class A shares. This concentrated control limits your ability to influence corporate matters that holders of Class A shares may view as beneficial.
German and European insolvency laws are substantially different from U.S. insolvency laws and may offer our shareholders less protection than they would have under U.S. insolvency laws.
As a company with its registered office in Germany, we are subject to German insolvency laws in the event any insolvency proceedings are initiated against us including, among other things, directive (EU) 2019/1023 of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 20, 2019 on insolvency proceedings). Should courts in another EU jurisdiction determine that the insolvency laws of that EU jurisdiction apply to us in accordance with and subject to such EU regulations, the courts in that country could have jurisdiction over the insolvency proceedings initiated against us. Insolvency laws in Germany or the relevant other European country, if any, may offer our shareholders less protection than they would have under U.S. insolvency laws and make it more difficult for them to recover the amount they could expect to recover in a liquidation under U.S. insolvency laws.
Dutch law and our articles of association may contain provisions that may discourage a takeover attempt.
Dutch law and provisions of our articles of association may in the future impose various procedural and other requirements that would make it more difficult for shareholders to effect certain corporate actions and would make it more difficult for a third party to acquire control of us or to effect a change in the composition of our management board and supervisory board. For example, such provisions include our dual-class share structure that gives greater voting power to the Class B shares owned by Expedia Group and our Founders, the binding nomination structure for the appointment of our management board members and supervisory board members, and the provision in our articles of association which provides
that certain shareholder decisions can only be passed if proposed by our management board. Moreover, our management board, with the approval of our supervisory board, can invoke a cooling-off period of up to 250 days when shareholders, using their right to have items added to the agenda for a general meeting or their right to request a general meeting, propose an agenda item for our general meeting to dismiss, suspend or appoint one or more managing directors or supervisory directors (or to amend any provision in our articles of association dealing with those matters) or when a public offer for our company is made or announced without our support, provided, in each case, that our management board believes that such proposal or offer materially conflicts with the interests of trivago and its business. During a cooling-off period, our general meeting cannot dismiss, suspend or appoint managing directors and supervisory directors (or amend the provisions in our articles of association dealing with those matters) except at the proposal of our management board.
U.S. investors may have difficulty enforcing civil liabilities against us or members of our management board and supervisory board.
We are organized and existing under the laws of the Netherlands, and, as such, under Dutch private international law rules the rights of our shareholders and the civil liability of our directors and executive officers are governed in certain respects by the laws of the Netherlands. Most members of our management board and supervisory board are non-residents of the United States. The ability of our shareholders in certain countries other than the Netherlands to bring an action against us, our directors and executive officers may be limited under applicable law. In addition, substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States.
As a result, it may not be possible for shareholders to effect service of process within the United States upon us or our directors and executive officers or to enforce judgments against us or them in U.S. courts, including judgments predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the federal securities laws of the United States. In addition, it is not clear whether a Dutch court would impose civil liability on us or any of our directors and executive officers in an original action based solely upon the federal securities laws of the United States brought in a court of competent jurisdiction in the Netherlands.
As of the date of this annual report, the United States and the Netherlands do not have a treaty providing for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments, other than arbitration awards, in civil and commercial matters. With respect to choice of court agreements in civil or commercial matters, it is noted that the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements entered into force for the Netherlands, but has not entered into force for the United States. Accordingly, a judgment rendered by a court in the United States, whether or not predicated solely upon U.S. securities laws, would not automatically be recognized and enforced by the competent Dutch courts. However, if a person has obtained a judgment rendered by a court in the United States that is enforceable under the laws of the United States and files a claim with the competent Dutch court, the Dutch court will in principle give binding effect to a foreign judgment if (i) the jurisdiction of the foreign court was based on a ground of jurisdiction that is generally acceptable according to international standards, (ii) the judgment by the foreign court was rendered in legal proceedings that comply with the Dutch standards of proper administration of justice including sufficient safeguards (behoorlijke rechtspleging), (iii) binding effect of such foreign judgment is not contrary to Dutch public order (openbare orde) and (iv) the judgment by the foreign court is not incompatible with a decision rendered between the same parties by a Dutch court, or with a previous decision rendered between the same parties by a foreign court in a dispute that concerns the same subject and is based on the same cause, provided that the previous decision qualifies for recognition in the Netherlands. Even if such a foreign judgement is given binding effect, a claim based thereon may, however, still be rejected if the foreign judgment is not or no longer formally enforceable. Dutch courts may deny the recognition and enforcement of punitive damages or other awards. Moreover, a Dutch court may reduce the amount of damages granted by a U.S. court and recognize damages only to the extent that they are necessary to compensate actual losses or damages. Enforcement and recognition of judgments of U.S. courts in the Netherlands are solely governed by the provisions of the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure (Wetboek van Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering).
Based on the lack of a treaty as described above, U.S. investors may not be able to enforce against us or our directors, representatives or certain experts named herein who are residents of the Netherlands or countries other than the United States any judgments obtained in U.S. courts in civil and commercial matters, including judgments under the U.S. federal securities laws.
We rely on the foreign private issuer and controlled company exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements under Nasdaq rules.
As a foreign private issuer whose ADSs are listed on Nasdaq, we are permitted to follow certain home country corporate governance practices pursuant to exemptions under Nasdaq rules. A foreign private issuer must disclose in its annual reports filed with the SEC each requirement under Nasdaq rules with which it does not comply, followed by a description of its applicable home country practice. Our Dutch home country practices may afford less protection to holders of our ADSs. We follow in certain cases our home country practices and rely on certain exemptions provided by Nasdaq rules to foreign private issuers, including, among others, an exemption from the requirement to hold an annual meeting of shareholders no later than one year after an issuer’s fiscal year end, exemptions from the requirement that a board of directors be comprised of a majority of independent directors, exemptions from the requirements that an issuer’s compensation committee should be comprised solely of independent directors, and exemptions from the requirement that share incentive plans be approved by shareholders. See “Item 16G: Corporate governance” for more information on the significant differences between our corporate governance practices and those followed by U.S. companies under Nasdaq rules. As a result of our reliance on the corporate governance exemptions available to foreign private issuers, you will not have the same protection afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to all of Nasdaq’s corporate governance requirements.
In addition to the exemptions we rely on as a foreign private issuer, we also rely on the “controlled company” exemption under Nasdaq corporate governance rules. A “controlled company” under Nasdaq corporate governance rules is a company of which more than 50% of the voting power is held by an individual, group or another company. Our principal shareholder, Expedia Group, controls a majority of the combined voting power of our outstanding shares, making us a “controlled company” within the meaning of Nasdaq corporate governance rules. As a controlled company, we have elected not to comply with certain corporate governance standards, including the requirement that a majority of our supervisory board members are independent and the requirement that our compensation committee consist entirely of independent directors.
Risks related to taxation
We may become taxable in a jurisdiction other than Germany, and this may increase the aggregate tax burden on us.
Since our incorporation, we have had, on a continuous basis, our place of effective management in Germany. Therefore, we believe that we are a tax resident of Germany under German national tax laws. As an entity incorporated under Dutch law, however, we also qualify as a tax resident of the Netherlands under Dutch national tax laws. However, given that substantially all of our operations (along with all employees, management board members and fixed assets) are in Germany, based on current tax laws of the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as applicable income tax treaties, and current interpretations thereof, we believe that we are tax resident solely in Germany for the purposes of the 2012 convention between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to taxes on income.
The applicable tax laws, tax treaties or interpretations thereof may change. Furthermore, whether we have our place of effective management in Germany and are as such wholly tax resident in Germany is largely a question of fact and degree based on all the circumstances, rather than a question of law, which facts and degree may also change. Changes to applicable tax laws, tax treaties or interpretations thereof
and changes to applicable facts and circumstances (e.g., a change of board members or the place where board meetings take place), or changes to applicable income tax treaties, including a change to MLI tie-breaker reservation, may result in our also becoming a tax resident of the Netherlands or another jurisdiction (other than Germany), potentially also triggering an exit tax liability in Germany or the Netherlands. As a consequence, our overall effective income tax rate and income tax expense could materially increase, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects, which could cause our ADS price and trading volume to decline.
Application of existing tax laws, rules or regulations are subject to interpretation by taxing authorities.
The application of various national and international income and non-income tax laws, rules and regulations to our historical and new services is subject to interpretation by the applicable taxing authorities. These taxing authorities have become more aggressive in their interpretation and enforcement of such laws, rules and regulations over time, as governments are increasingly focused on ways to increase revenue. This has contributed to an increase in the audit activity and harsher stances taken by tax authorities. As such, additional taxes or other assessments may be in excess of our current tax reserves or may require us to modify our business practices to reduce our exposure to additional taxes going forward, any of which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Significant degrees of judgment and estimation are required in determining our worldwide tax liabilities. In the ordinary course of our business, there are transactions and calculations, including intercompany transactions and cross-jurisdictional transfer pricing for which the ultimate tax determination is uncertain or otherwise subject to interpretation. Tax authorities may disagree with our intercompany charges, including the amount of or basis for such charges, cross-jurisdictional transfer pricing or other matters and assess additional taxes. Although we believe our tax estimates are reasonable, the final determination of tax audits could be materially different from our historical income tax provisions and accruals in which case we may be subject to additional tax liabilities, possibly including interest and penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Amendments to existing tax laws, rules or regulations or enactment of new unfavorable tax laws, rules or regulations could have an adverse effect on our business and financial performance.
Many of the underlying laws, rules or regulations imposing taxes and other obligations were established before the growth of the digital economy. If the tax or other laws, rules or regulations were amended, or if new unfavorable laws, rules or regulations were enacted, the results could increase our tax payments or other obligations, prospectively or retrospectively, subject us to interest and penalties, decrease the demand for our services if we pass on such costs to the user, result in increased costs to update or expand our technical or administrative infrastructure or effectively limit the scope of our business activities if we decided not to conduct business in particular jurisdictions. As a result, these changes may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
In addition, in the past, Germany and foreign governments have introduced proposals for tax legislation, or have adopted tax laws, that could have a significant adverse effect on our tax rate, or increase our tax liabilities, the carrying value of deferred tax assets, or our deferred tax liabilities. For example, pursuant to the release of “base erosion and profit shifting” (BEPS) final Action Plans in October 2015, and its implementation through the MLI, several countries including the countries in which we operate, have begun implementing the adopted MLI positions. By December 2021, 96 member countries of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework of BEPS ("IF member countries"), including Germany, have signed the MLI. Out of these 96 countries, 68 including Germany have ratified the MLI. Germany has ratified the MLI in December 2020 and it subsequently entered into force in April 2021. Further, in October 2021, the OECD released a statement on a two pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy, to which 137 IF member countries have agreed. Several countries have unilaterally
adopted digital services taxes or other similar taxes, while some other countries are planning to adopt such taxes in the future. Such ongoing developments and other new initiatives could result, depending on how they are ultimately implemented, in incremental taxes, and thus may adversely impact our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We are constantly exploring changes to our business structures to support our operations while managing operational and financial risk for ourselves and our shareholders and to make our services more financially attractive to our customers. Though these changes would be undertaken to manage operational and financial risk, we may experience unanticipated material tax liabilities which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our effective tax rate in the future could also be adversely affected by changes to our operating structure, changes in the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, or changes in the deferred tax assets and liabilities position.
We may be classified as a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, which could result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. Holders of the ADSs.
Based on the market price of our ADSs and the composition of our income, assets and operations, we do not believe that we should be treated as a PFIC for U.S. federal income tax purposes for the taxable year ended December 31, 2021 or in the foreseeable future. However, the application of the PFIC rules to us is subject to certain ambiguity. In addition, this is a factual determination that must be made annually after the close of each taxable year. Therefore, there can be no assurance that we will not be classified as a PFIC for the taxable year ended December 31, 2021 or for any future taxable year. We would be classified as a PFIC for any taxable year if, after the application of certain look-through rules, either: (1) 75% or more of our gross income for such year is “passive income” (as defined in the relevant provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended), or (2) 50% or more of the value of our assets (determined on the basis of a quarterly average) during such year is attributable to assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income. Certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences could apply to a U.S. Holder (as defined in “Item 10: Additional information - E. Taxation - Material U.S. federal income tax considerations ”) if we are treated as a PFIC for any taxable year during which such U.S. Holder holds ADSs.
Certain of our ADS holders may be unable to claim tax credits to reduce German withholding tax applicable to the payment of dividends.
We do not anticipate paying dividends on our ADSs for the foreseeable future. As a Dutch-incorporated but German tax resident company, however, if we pay dividends, such dividends will be subject to German (and potentially Dutch) withholding tax. Currently, the applicable German withholding tax rate is 26.375% of the gross dividend. This German tax can be reduced to the applicable double tax treaty rate, however, by an application filed by the tax payer for a specific German tax certificate with the German Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern). If a tax certificate cannot be delivered to the ADS holder due to applicable settlement mechanics or lack of information regarding the ADS holder, holders of the shares or ADSs of a German tax resident company may be unable to benefit from any available double tax treaty relief while they may be unable to file for a credit of such withholding tax in its jurisdiction of residence. Further, the payment made to the ADS holder equal to the net dividend may, under the tax law applicable to the ADS holder, qualify as taxable income that is in turn subject to tax, which could mean that a dividend is effectively taxed twice. Our ADSs have been issued by a depositary with a direct link to the U.S. Depository Trust Company, or DTC, which should reduce the risk that the applicable German withholding tax certificate cannot be delivered to the ADS holder. However, there can be no guarantee that the information delivery requirement can be satisfied in all cases, which could result in adverse tax consequences for affected ADS holders.
Investors should note that the interpretation circular (Besteuerung von American Depositary Receipts (ADR) auf inländische Aktien) issued by the German Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium der Finanzen) dated May 24, 2013 (reference number IV C 1-S2204/12/10003), or ADR Tax Circular, is not binding for German courts and it is not clear whether or not a German tax court will follow the ADR Tax Circular in determining the German tax treatment of our specific ADSs. Further concerns regarding the applicability of the ADR Tax Circular may arise due to the fact that the ADR Tax Circular refers only to German stock and not to shares in a Dutch N.V. If the ADSs are determined not to fall within the scope of application of the ADR Tax Circular, and thus profit distributions made with respect to the ADSs are not treated as a dividend for German tax purposes, the ADS holder would not be entitled to a refund of any taxes withheld on the dividends under German tax law. See “Item 10: Additional information - E. Taxation - German taxation of ADS holders”).
If we ever pay dividends, we may need to withhold tax on such dividends payable to holders of our ADSs in both Germany and the Netherlands.
We do not intend to pay any dividends to holders of ADSs. However, if we do pay dividends, we may need to withhold tax on such dividends both in Germany and the Netherlands. As an entity incorporated under Dutch law, any dividends distributed by us are subject to Dutch dividend withholding tax on the basis of Dutch domestic law. However, on the basis of the double tax treaty between Germany and the Netherlands, the Netherlands will be restricted in imposing these taxes if we continue to be a tax resident of Germany and our place of effective management is in Germany. However, Dutch dividend withholding tax is still required to be withheld from dividends if and when paid to Dutch resident holders of our ADSs (and non-Dutch resident holders of our ADSs that have a permanent establishment in the Netherlands to which their shareholding is attributable). As a result, upon a payment of dividends, we will be required to identify our shareholders and/or ADS holders in order to assess whether there are Dutch residents (or non-Dutch residents with a permanent establishment in the Netherlands to which the shares are attributable) in respect of which Dutch dividend tax has to be withheld. Such identification may not always be possible in practice. If the identity of our shareholders and/or ADS holders cannot be determined, withholding of both German and Dutch dividend tax from such dividend may occur upon a payment of dividends.
Furthermore, the withholding tax restriction referred to above is based on the current reservation of Germany under the MLI with respect to the dual resident entities. If Germany changes its MLI reservation on Article 4 of the MLI, we may not be entitled to any benefits of the double tax treaty between Germany and the Netherlands, including the withholding tax restriction, as long as Germany and the Netherlands do not reach an agreement on our tax residency for purposes of the double tax treaty between Germany and the Netherlands, except to the extent and in such manner as may be agreed upon by the authorities. As a result, any dividends distributed by us during the period till when no such agreement has been reached between Germany and the Netherlands, may be subject to withholding tax both in Germany and the Netherlands.
In addition, a proposed law is currently pending before the Dutch parliament, namely the Emergency act conditional exit dividend tax (Spoedwet conditionele eindafrekening dividendbelasting) which would, if enacted, impose a dividend withholding (exit) tax on certain deemed distributions if we cease to be a Dutch tax resident and become a tax resident of a jurisdiction that is not a member of the EU or the EEA, when such jurisdiction does not satisfy certain conditions. In some cases, we would have a right to recover the amount of tax from our shareholders when such shareholder is not entitled to an exemption. If enacted in the form in which it is presently pending before the Dutch parliament, the proposed law will have retroactive effect to December 8, 2021.
General risk factors
Our share price may be volatile or may decline regardless of our operating performance.
The market price for our ADSs has been, and will likely continue to, be volatile, and there continues to be relatively few ADSs outstanding, resulting in relatively low liquidity in our ADSs. Our results of operations are also subject to material quarterly fluctuations that may affect the volatility of our ADSs. In addition, the market price of our ADSs may fluctuate significantly in response to a number of factors, most of which we cannot control, including:
•actual or anticipated fluctuations in our results of operations;
•variance in our financial performance from the expectations of market analysts or from the financial guidance that we have communicated;
•announcements by us or our competitors of significant business developments, acquisitions or expansion plans;
•changes in the prices of our competitors or those paid to us by our customers;
•our involvement in litigation or regulatory investigations;
•our sale of ADSs or other securities in the future;
•a sale of ADSs by our major shareholders in the future;
•market conditions in our industry;
•changes in key personnel;
•the trading volume of our ADSs;
•changes in the estimation of the future size and growth rate of our markets; and
•general economic and market conditions.
The stock markets, including Nasdaq, have in the past experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have affected and continue to affect the market prices of equity securities of many Internet companies.
Future sales and/or issues of our ADSs, or the perception in the public markets that such sales may occur, may depress our ADS price.
Sales of a substantial number of our ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could adversely affect the price of our ADSs and could impair our ability to raise capital through the sale of additional ADSs. Our Founders continue to hold a significant shareholding in us, and one of them has made significant sales of ADSs in recent years. Our Founders may conduct further significant sales of ADSs in the future. See "Item 7: Major shareholders and related party transactions - A. Major Shareholders" for more information. The ADSs are freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act, except for any of our ADSs that may be held or acquired by our management board members, supervisory board members, executive officers and other affiliates, as that term is defined in the Securities Act or ADSs sold in transactions not subject to the registration requirements of the Securities Act, which will in each case be restricted securities under the Securities Act. Restricted securities may not be sold in the public market unless the sale is registered under the Securities Act or an exemption from registration is available.
Our Class B shares are convertible into Class A shares, which may be sold subject to certain restrictions in the Amended and Restated Shareholders’ Agreement.
In the future, we may also issue our securities in connection with investments or acquisitions. The amount of ADSs issued in connection with an investment or acquisition could constitute a material portion of our then-outstanding ADSs. Any issuance of additional securities in connection with investments or acquisitions may result in additional dilution to you.
If securities or industry analysts publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our ADS price could decline.
The trading market for our ADSs depends in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. If securities or industry analyst coverage results in downgrades of our ADSs or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our ADS price would likely decline.
Our global operations involve additional risks.
Our platform is available in a number of jurisdictions. We face complex, dynamic and varied risk landscapes in the jurisdictions in which our platform is available. We must tailor our services and business models to the unique circumstances of each of the many countries and markets in which our platform is available. This can be complex, difficult, costly and divert management and personnel resources. In addition, we may face competition in other countries from companies that may have more experience with operations in such countries or with global operations in general. Laws and business practices that favor local competitors or prohibit or limit foreign ownership of certain businesses or our failure to adapt our practices, systems, processes and business models effectively to the user and supplier preferences in each country in which our platform is available, could slow our growth. Certain markets in which we operate are characterized by lower margins in our business and related businesses than is the case in more mature markets, which could have a negative impact on our overall margins as our revenue from these markets grows over time.
In addition to the risks outlined elsewhere in this section, our global operations are subject to a number of other risks, including:
•changing political conditions, including risk of rising protectionism, restrictions on immigration or imposition of new trade barriers;
•local political or labor conditions, including being individually targeted by local regulators or being adversely affected by national labor strikes;
•compliance with various regulatory laws and requirements relating to anti-corruption, antitrust or competition, economic sanctions, data content and privacy, consumer protection, employment and labor laws, health and safety, and advertising and promotions;
•differences, inconsistent interpretations and changes in various laws and regulations, including international, national and local tax laws;
•weaker or uncertain enforcement of our contractual and intellectual property rights;
•preferences by local populations for local providers;
•slower adoption of the Internet as an advertising, broadcast and commerce medium and the lack of appropriate infrastructure to support widespread Internet usage in those markets;
•our ability to support new technologies that may be more prevalent in certain local markets; and
•uncertainty regarding liability for services and content, including uncertainty as a result of local laws and lack of precedent.
Item 4: Information on the company
A.History and development of the company
trivago was conceived by graduate school friends Rolf Schrömgens, Peter Vinnemeier and Stephan Stubner, who initially operated trivago out of a garage in Düsseldorf, Germany. trivago GmbH was incorporated in 2005, and its business eventually developed into a leading global hotel and accommodation search platform. Mr. Stubner left the company in 2006 and another graduate school friend, Malte Siewert, joined the founding team.
Between 2006 and 2008, several investors invested €1.4 million in trivago. In 2010, Insight Venture Partners acquired 27.3% of the equity ownership of trivago for €42.5 million. Expedia Group acquired 63.0% of the equity ownership in trivago in 2013, purchasing all outstanding equity from non-Founders and some outstanding equity from the Founders and subscribing for a certain number of newly issued shares for a total of €477 million. Expedia Group subsequently increased its shareholdings slightly in the second and fourth quarter of 2016 through the purchase of shares held by certain employees who had previously exercised stock options.
We were incorporated on November 7, 2016 as travel B.V., a private company with limited liability (besloten vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid) under Dutch law. On December 16, 2016, we completed our initial public offering, or IPO, on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. In connection with our IPO, we converted into a public company with limited liability (naamloze vennootschap) under Dutch law pursuant to a deed of amendment and conversion and changed our legal name to trivago N.V. On September 7, 2017, we consummated the cross-border merger of trivago GmbH into and with trivago N.V.
We are registered with the Trade Register of the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands (Kamer van Koophandel) under number 67222927. Our corporate seat is in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and our registered office is at Kesselstraße 5 - 7, 40221 Düsseldorf, Germany (under number HRB 79986). Our telephone number is +49-211-3876840000.
Our agent in the United States is Cogency Global Inc., and its address is 122 East 42nd Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10168.
Principal capital expenditures and divestitures
For information on our principal capital expenditures and divestitures, see Note 3 - Acquisitions and divestitures.
Public takeover offers
Since January 1, 2020, there have been no public takeover offers by third parties with respect to our shares, and we have not made any public takeover offers in respect of any other company’s shares.
Management has identified three reportable segments, which correspond to our three operating segments: the Americas, Developed Europe and Rest of World. Our Americas segment is comprised of Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, the United States and Uruguay. Our Developed Europe segment is comprised of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Our Rest of World segment is comprised of all other countries, the most significant by revenue of which are Australia, Turkey, Japan, Israel and India. Other revenue is included in Corporate and eliminations, along with all corporate functions and expenses, excluding direct advertising.
We determined our operating segments based on how our chief operating decision makers manage our business and evaluate operating performance. Our primary operating metric is Return on Advertising Spend, or ROAS, for each of our segments, which compares Referral Revenue to Advertising Spend.
For additional information relating to the development of our company, see “Item 4: Information on the company - B. Business overview.”
B. Business overview
trivago is a global accommodation search platform. We are focused on reshaping the way travelers search for and compare different types of accommodations, such as hotels, vacation rentals and private apartments, while enabling our advertisers to grow their businesses by providing them with access to a broad audience of travelers via our websites and apps. Our platform allows travelers to make informed decisions by personalizing their search for accommodation and providing them with access to a deep supply of relevant information and prices. In the year ended December 31, 2021, we had 282.2 million Qualified Referrals and, as of that date, offered access to more than 5.0 million hotels and other types of accommodation, including 3.8 million units of alternative accommodation such as vacation rentals and private apartments, in over 190 countries. See “Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects” for a further description of Qualified Referrals.
We believe that the number of travelers accessing our websites and apps makes us an important and scalable marketing channel for our advertisers, which include OTAs, hotel chains, independent hotels and providers of alternative accommodation. Additionally, our ability to refine user intent through our search function allows us to provide advertisers with transaction-ready referrals. Recognizing that advertisers on our marketplace have varying objectives and varying levels of marketing resources and experience, we provide a range of services to enable advertisers to improve their performance on our marketplace.
Our hotel and accommodation search platform can be accessed globally via 53 localized websites and apps available in 31 languages. Users can search our platform on desktop and mobile devices, and benefit from a familiar user interface, resulting in a consistent user experience.
In the year ended December 31, 2021, we generated revenue of €361.4 million, net income of €10.7 million, and Adjusted EBITDA of €34.6 million. See "Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects - Results of Operations - Revenue" for Referral Revenue by segment, representing a breakdown according to principal geographic markets. See “Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects - H. Non-GAAP financial measures" for an additional description of Adjusted EBITDA and a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA to net income/(loss).
trivago's search platform
Our accommodation search platform forms the core of our user experience. As we provide a search website, users do not book directly on our platform. When they click on an offer for a hotel room or other accommodation at a certain price, they are referred to our advertisers’ websites where they can complete their booking. We maintain one of the largest searchable databases of accommodations in the world. As of December 31, 2021, our database included more than 5.0 million (2020: 5.0 million) hotels and other types of accommodations, gathered through OTAs, hotel chains, independent hotels and providers of alternative accommodations. As of December 31, 2021, we offered access on our search platform to more than 3.8 million (2020: 3.8 million) units of alternative accommodation, such as vacation rentals and private apartments.
Our users initially search via a text-based search function, which supports searches across a broad range of criteria. The search results show a user an accommodation listing page. For hotels, the page contains aggregated information, including:
•Accommodation information: We display information that we believe is relevant to the user, such as the name, pictures, amenities, star rating and distance to selected location;
•trivago ratings index: We aggregate millions of ratings globally. We produce a score for each property, which is updated daily to render relevant and valuable insights for our users while saving them time when searching for the ideal hotel or other accommodation. The rating is a single, easy-to-use score out of ten;
•Reviews: We provide reviews from third parties in a clear and concise format; and
•Price comparison: We prominently display a suggested advertised deal for each hotel or other accommodation, while also listing additional available offers from our advertisers in a list format, including room types, amenities and payment options. To learn more about how we determine the prominence given to offers and their placement in our search results, see "Marketplace" below.
Our products are accessible anytime and anywhere, online and on mobile devices. We provide our services through mobile websites and apps. m.trivago.com (or its localized versions) is our mobile-optimized website available on mobile device browsers, and our full-featured native mobile app is available on iPhone, iPad, Android Phone, Android Tablet and HarmonyOS.
Through test-driven marketing operations, we have positioned our brand as a key part of the process for travelers in finding their ideal hotel or other accommodation. We focus the efforts of our marketing teams and Advertising Spend towards building effective and efficient messaging for a broad audience. We believe that building and maintaining our brand and clearly articulating our role in travelers' hotel or other accommodation discovery journey, will continue to drive both travelers and advertisers to our platform to connect in a mutually beneficial way.
Our application of data-led improvement and innovation also informs our marketing strategy, which we believe enables us to become increasingly more effective with our marketing spend. We have built tools that capture data and calculate our return on many elements of our brand and performance marketing measures.
To grow brand awareness and increase the likelihood that users will visit our websites and use our apps, we invest in brand marketing globally across a broad range of media channels, including TV marketing, on demand video platforms and online video advertising.
The amount and nature of our Advertising Spend varies across our geographic markets, depending on multiple factors including the emphasis we wish to place on profitability versus traffic growth, cost efficiency, marginal effectiveness of our Advertising Spend, local media dynamics, the size of the market and our existing brand presence in that market.
We also generate travel content as a means of engaging with travelers, which is distributed online via social media, our online magazine and email.
We market our services and directly acquire traffic for our websites by purchasing travel and hotel-related keywords from general search engines and through advertisements on other online marketing channels.
These activities include advertisements through search engines, such as Bing, Google, Naver and Yahoo! and through display advertising campaigns on advertising networks, affiliate websites and social media sites. Mobile app marketing remains important given the high usage of that device type.
Allocation of marketing spend
We take a data-driven, testing-based approach to making decisions about allocating marketing spend, where we use tools, processes and algorithms, many of which are proprietary, to measure and optimize performance end-to-end, starting with the pretesting of the creative concept and ending with the optimization of media spend. We continue to develop the methodologies we use to inform decisions about how much we spend on each marketing channel. We look at a range of metrics including behavior on the trivago website as well as subsequent booking behavior with our partners to determine the optimal mix of spend. We assess the returns on marketing spend by looking at a range of factors, both short and long-term, including impact on referral revenue, user retention and advertiser engagement.
Our sales team seeks to provide tailored advice to each of our existing and prospective OTAs, providers of alternative accommodation, hotel chains and independent hotel advertisers. We have dedicated sales teams that manage the process of onboarding advertisers, maintain ongoing relationships with advertisers, work with advertisers to help them optimize their outcomes from the trivago platform and provide guidance on additional tools and features that could further enhance advertisers’ experience. We aim to remain in close dialogue with OTAs and hotel chains to better understand each advertiser’s specific needs and objectives in order to offer optimal solutions through our marketplace.
Relationship building with smaller advertisers, including some independent hotels, differs from those with OTAs and sophisticated hotel chains, as they are often less familiar with CPC bidding models and online advertising more broadly. This typically ensures a longer sales cycle where the starting point can be building awareness of the relevance of our marketplace or, articulating the opportunities that our platform offers. It often requires onboarding by encouraging the optimization of such advertisers' information and profiles on our site, offering products to further enhance their profiles, and encouragement to start running a CPC or CPA campaign directly on our marketplace. This often multi-stage process requires our sales team to develop close relationships with each accommodation provider.
Marketing tools and services for advertisers
We offer our advertisers a suite of marketing tools to help promote their listings on our platform and drive traffic to their websites. Our tools and services, including the subscription-based trivago Business Studio Pro Apps Package, provide tailored solutions for OTAs, hotel chains and independent hotel advertisers to help them manage their presence on our marketplace and steer their investments according to their budget and traffic needs.
We design our algorithm to showcase the hotel room and other accommodation rate offers that we believe will be of most interest to our users, emphasizing those offers that are more likely to be clicked and ultimately booked on our advertisers' websites. We prominently display a suggested deal for each hotel, which is determined based on our algorithm as described below, while also listing additional offers made available to us from our advertisers in a list format.
We consider the completion of hotel and other accommodation bookings, which we refer to as conversion, to be a key indicator of user satisfaction on our website. At the core of our ability to match our users’ searches with large numbers of hotel and other accommodation offers is our auction platform,
which we call our marketplace. With our marketplace, we provide advertisers a competitive forum to access user traffic by facilitating a vast quantity of auctions on any particular day.
CPC Bidding Model
Our advertisers continue to participate in our marketplace primarily through CPC, or cost-per-click, bidding. Advertisers that use this method submit CPC bids for each user click on an advertised rate for a hotel. By clicking on a given rate, an individual user is referred to that advertiser’s website where the user can complete the booking. Advertisers can submit and adjust CPC bids on our marketplace frequently - as often as daily - on a property-by-property and market-by-market basis, and provide us with information on hotel room and other accommodation rates and availability on a near-real time basis.
We also offer our advertisers the opportunity to advertise and promote their business through hotel/accommodation sponsored placements on our websites. This service is generally also priced on a CPC basis, and guarantees that advertiser placement in a pre-selected slot at the top of our search results.
Beginning in 2020, we began to offer our advertisers the opportunity to participate in our marketplace on a CPA, or cost-per-acquisition, basis, whereby an advertiser pays us a percentage of the booking revenues that ultimately result from a referral. The CPA model enables our advertisers to be charged only in the event a user ultimately completes a booking, enabling them to reduce their risk as they only pay when an actual booking takes place. Advertisers may set multiple CPA campaigns in a given market, and update CPA inputs for each campaign frequently. When an advertiser opts to participate in our marketplace on a CPA basis, we calculate a CPC bid-equivalent based on potential booking value, and the CPA inputs. This equivalent is then used for the purpose of the ranking and sorting algorithm described below.
Ranking and sorting algorithm
In determining the prominence given to offers and their placement in our search results, including in comparison search results for a given location and on detail pages for a given property, our proprietary algorithm considers a number of factors in a dynamic, self-learning process. These include (but are not limited to) the advertiser’s offered rate for the hotel room or other accommodation, the likelihood the offer will match the user’s accommodation search criteria, data we have collected on likely booking conversion and the CPC bids submitted by our advertisers (or CPC equivalent, as the case may be).
CPC levels play an important role in determining the prominence given to offers and their placement in our search results. Advertisers can analyze the number of referrals obtained from their advertisements on our marketplace and the consequent value generated from a referral based on the booking value they receive from users referred from our site, to determine the amount they are willing to pay. Generally, the higher the potential booking value or conversion generated by a Qualified Referral and the more competitive the bidding, the more an advertiser is willing to bid for an accommodation advertisement on our marketplace. This means that the levels of advertisers’ CPC bids generally reflect their view of the likelihood that each click on an offer will result in a booking by a user. We exclude from our marketplace auction offers where the CPC has been set to a de minimis level, as this typically denotes room inventory that the advertiser has withdrawn for some period of time from its active inventory on trivago.
By managing their CPC bids, their CPA campaigns and hotel room and other accommodation rates submitted on our marketplace, our advertisers can influence their own returns on investment and the volumes of referral traffic we generate for them. We believe that by providing services to help our advertisers, we can increase competition and create a more level playing field for our advertisers. By doing this, we aim to mitigate competitive disadvantages for smaller advertisers on our marketplace and to deliver more choice for our users.
Our mission is "to be your companion to experience our world." We seek to enable people to navigate the world of travel and experiences through products that make the vast number of available options accessible and comparable for our users and offer inspiration. To fulfill our mission and successfully support our customers and partners, our strategy is focused on continuous improvement of our existing products, as well as enhancing our value proposition to serve our customers across a broader spectrum of their travel and leisure needs.
Our core travel search product is tailored towards users that have a very specific trip or experience in mind and are searching for the best way to fulfill their needs. With a comprehensive coverage of accommodation options across markets, accommodation categories and rate options, we strive to continue to serve a key need of our users and believe this ability has built our position as a leading global accommodation search platform. We intend to enhance our core offering while assessing which complementary search services are beneficial to our users to help improve their overall search experience.
In addition to consumer products, we have started to develop B2B solutions that build upon our core capabilities and assets as an accommodation search platform with global scale. Such products include, for example, white label accommodation meta search solutions for integration into our partners’ websites.
Customers that pay to advertise on trivago include:
•OTAs, including large international players, as well as smaller, regional and local OTAs;
•Hotel chains, including large multi-national hotel chains and smaller regional chains;
•Providers of alternative accommodation, such as vacation rental or private apartments; and
•Industry participants, including metasearch and content providers.
We generate the large majority of our Referral Revenue from OTAs. Certain brands affiliated as of the date hereof with our majority shareholder, Expedia Group, including Brand Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, Wotif, Vrbo and ebookers, in the aggregate, accounted for 26% of our Referral Revenue for the year ended December 31, 2021. Booking Holdings and its affiliated brands, including Booking.com, Agoda and priceline.com, accounted for 55% of our Referral Revenue for the year ended December 31, 2021.
Nearly all of our agreements with advertisers, including our agreements with our largest advertisers, may be terminated at will or upon three to seven days’ prior notice by either party. For more information on risks related to the concentration of our revenue and our relationship with our largest advertisers, see "Item 3: Key information - D. Risk factors".
Competition for users
We compete to attract users to our websites and apps to help them research and find hotels and other accommodation. Given our position at the top of the online search funnel, many companies we compete with are also our customers.
Our principal competitors for users include:
•Online metasearch and review websites, such as Google Hotel Ads, Kayak, Qunar, Skyscanner , and TripAdvisor;
•Search engines, such as Bing, Google, Naver and Yahoo!;
•Independent hotels and hotel chains, such as Accor, Hilton and Marriott;
•OTAs, such as Booking.com, Ctrip, trip.com and Brand Expedia; and
•Alternative accommodation providers, such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
Competition for advertisers
Our principal competitors for advertisers’ marketing spend include:
•Print media, such as local newspapers and magazines;
•Other traditional media, such as TV and radio;
•Search engines, such as Bing, Google, Naver and Yahoo!;
•Online metasearch and review websites, such as Kayak, Qunar, Skycanner, TripAdvisor and Google Hotel Ads;
•Social networking services, such as Facebook and Twitter;
•Websites offering display advertising;
•Email marketing software and tools;
•Online video channels, such as YouTube; and
•Mobile app marketing.
Our employees and culture
We believe that our entrepreneurial corporate culture is a key ingredient to our success. It has been designed to reflect the fast-moving technology space in which we operate, as well as our determination to remain pioneers in our field. Our employees operate as entrepreneurs in their areas of responsibility, continuously striving for innovation and improvement. We encourage our employees to take on new challenges within the company regularly, to broaden their perspective, accelerate their learning, ensure a high level of motivation and foster communication. Cultural fit is a key part of our recruiting process, as we seek to hire individuals comfortable working in a flat organizational structure that rewards those who take initiative and continuously seek to understand and learn, take risks and innovate. We regard failure as an opportunity to learn and improve approaches going forward.
Internally, we distill our values into six core qualities:
•Trust: We want to build an environment in which mutual trust can develop to give us the comfort and safety to discuss matters openly and to act freely.
•Authenticity: We aim to be authentic by staying true to ourselves and welcoming discussion and controversy as we believe that there is no progress without friction.
•Entrepreneurial Passion: We aim to be passionate drivers of change, motivated to question the status quo - for both the organization and ourselves. We believe intrinsic motivation empowers us to take on ownership, to take appropriate risks and to be confident to make decisions.
•Power of Proof: We believe empirical data enables us to make sensible decisions. We want to explore and understand the driving forces behind why our projects succeed or fail.
•Unwavering Focus: We are focused on providing our users with an amazing, five-star experience. We aim to set our priorities based on the added value we believe is generated for trivago. We believe that multiple small, incremental improvements towards this goal add up to long-term success.
•Fanatic Learning: We aim to improve our competitive position by reacting quickly to findings based on our collective experiences, successes and failures. We strongly believe that power comes from sharing knowledge, not from keeping it to ourselves. We are open to continuously changing our beliefs and processes based on changing evidence. We see change as an opportunity to improve.
We consider these values as the foundations of our corporate culture and encourage our employees through regular feedback processes to act and work in accordance with such values.
We experience seasonal fluctuations in the demand for our services as a result of seasonal patterns in travel. For example, searches and consequently our revenue are generally the highest in the first three quarters as travelers plan and book their spring, summer and winter holiday travel. Our revenue typically decreases in the fourth quarter. We generally expect to experience higher Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) in the first and fourth quarter of the year as we typically expect to advertise less in the periods outside of high travel seasons. Seasonal fluctuations affecting our revenue also affect the timing of our cash flows.
We typically invoice once per month, with customary payment terms. Therefore, our cash flow varies seasonally with a slight delay to our revenue, and is significantly affected by the timing of our Advertising Spend. Changes in the relative revenue share of our offerings in countries and areas where seasonal travel patterns vary from those described above may influence the typical trend of our seasonal patterns in the future. It is difficult to forecast the seasonality for future periods, given the uncertainty related to the duration of the impact from COVID-19 and the shape and timing of any sustained recovery.
Our intellectual property, including trademarks, is an important component of our business. We rely on confidentiality procedures and contractual provisions with suppliers to protect our proprietary technology and our brands. In addition, we enter into confidentiality and invention assignment agreements with our employees and consultants.
We have registered domain names for websites that we use in our business, such as www.trivago.com, www.trivago.de and www.trivago.co.uk. Our registered trademarks include: trivago, "Hotel? trivago", "trivago Rating Index", Youzhan, our "WABI" trivago logo and our trivago logo. These trademarks are registered in various jurisdictions.
trivago provides, receives and shares data and information with its users, advertisers and other online advertising providers and conducts consumer facing marketing activities that are subject to consumer protection laws in jurisdictions in which we operate, regulating unfair and deceptive practices. For example, the United States and the European Union, or EU (including at member state level) - but also many other jurisdictions - are increasingly regulating commercial and other activities on the Internet, including the use of information retrieved from or transmitted over the Internet, the display, moderation and use of user-generated content, and are adopting new rules aimed at ensuring user privacy and information security as well as increasingly regulating online marketing, advertising and promotional activities and communications, including rules regarding disclosures in relation to the role of algorithms and price display messages in the display practices of platforms.
There are also new or additional rules regarding the taxation of digital products and services, the quality of products and services as well as addressing liability for third-party activities. Moreover, the applicability to the Internet of existing laws addressing issues such as intellectual property ownership and infringement is uncertain and evolving.
In particular, we are subject to an evolving set of data privacy laws. trivago is subject to the GDPR, which has been in effect since May 25, 2018 and which has recently led to the imposition of significant fines on various companies.
Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, the UK Government has transposed the GDPR into UK national law, creating the “UK GDPR”, which is complemented by the Data Protection Act 2018. The Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD), Federal Law no. 13,709/2018, is in force since September 18, 2020 and its penalties are enforceable since August 2021.The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) became effective in January 2020 and is substantially amended by the California Consumer Privacy Rights Acts, which will become operative in January 2023 and will impose new privacy requirements and rights for consumers in California.
Other substantial markets consider or are about to adopt data protection regulations, which risk being inconsistent or conflicting.
While we strive to monitor and comply with this complex and ever-changing patchwork of laws, a failure or perceived or alleged failure to comply with data privacy requirements in one of the jurisdictions where we operate, or target users may significantly harm our businesses. In addition, we could be adversely affected if data privacy regulations are expanded (through new regulation or through legal rulings) to require major changes in our business practices.
The growing complexity of the data protection landscape is exemplified by the regulation regarding international transfer of personal data, which is rapidly evolving and likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future. In particular, the GDPR regulates transfers of EU personal data to third countries that have not been found by the European Commission to provide adequate protection to such EU personal data, such as the United States. A considerable number of our service providers and hotels operate in such jurisdictions. In July 2020, the European Court of Justice (“CJEU”), invalidated the EU-U.S. Privacy
Shield framework, which provided companies with a mechanism to comply with data protection requirements when transferring personal data from the EU to the United States. At present, companies can rely on the European Commission’s Standard Contractual Clauses, provided that certain requirements are met, including carrying out of a "transfer impact assessment". The Standard Contractual Clauses which were significantly updated in September 2021 in the aftermath of the above-mentioned CJEU ruling, to lawfully transfer personal data from Europe to the United States and other countries that have not been found to provide adequate protection to EU personal data. This requires review of existing contractual arrangements for potential changes. Given this, we have no warranty as to the future viability of these updated Standard Contractual Clauses as a sufficient transfer mechanism for transfers to the US.
Many governmental authorities in the markets in which we operate are also considering additional and potentially diverging legislative and regulatory proposals that would increase the level and complexity of regulation on Internet display, disclosure and advertising activities (for example, the Omnibus Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive in the European Union's New Deal for Consumers, The EU's Data Governance Act, The EU's Digital Markets Act, The EU's Digital Services Act, ePrivacy Regulation and the European Commission's proposal Artificial Intelligence Act to regulate the development and commercial use of AI).
It is impossible to predict whether further new taxes or regulations will be imposed on our services and whether or how we might be affected. Increased regulation of the Internet could increase the cost of doing business or otherwise materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. In addition, the application and interpretation of existing laws and regulations to our business is often uncertain, given the highly dynamic nature of our business and the sector in which trivago operates.
Technology and infrastructure
Data and proprietary algorithms
We process a large amount of information about user traffic and behavior, advertisers and direct connections into the databases of many of our advertisers. We believe it is central to the success of our business that we effectively capture and parse this data. To achieve this, we have developed proprietary algorithms that drive key actions across our platform, including search, listings and bidding tools. We continue to explore new ways to capture relevant data and feed this into our platform to further enhance the experience for both our users and advertisers.
We host our platform at three different locations in Germany, the United States and Hong Kong, while also leveraging cloud-hosted services, which we believe offers us secure and scalable storage and processing power at manageable incremental expense. While much of the data we receive and capture is not sensitive, our data centers are compliant with the highest security standards. Where required, our data centers are payment card industry (PCI) compliant and accordingly, it is our policy to store separately the limited amount of relevant sensitive data that we do capture. We have designed our websites, apps and infrastructure to be able to support high-volume demand.
We develop our own software employing a rigorous iterative approach. This includes the proprietary algorithm underlying our search function, internal management tools, data analytics and advertiser tools.
C. Organizational structure
The following chart depicts our corporate structure and percentages of economic interest as of the date hereof based on the number of shares outstanding as of December 31, 2021:
* The holders of our Class B shares are entitled to ten votes per share, and holders of our Class A shares are entitled to one vote per share. For more information about the voting rights of our Class A and Class B shares, see Exhibit 2.6 hereto. Each Class B share is convertible into one Class A share at any time by the holder thereof, while Class A shares are not convertible into Class B shares under any circumstances. The chart above includes a number of Class A shares held by Rolf Schrömgens based solely on the Schedule 13D/A that he filed on February 16, 2022. For more information on shareholding, please see Item 7A. Major Shareholders.
trivago N.V. is the direct or indirect holding company of our subsidiaries. As of December 31, 2021, we do not own, directly or indirectly, any subsidiaries that we consider to be "significant".
D. Property, plant and equipment
In June 2018, we moved into our headquarters located in Düsseldorf's media harbor. We currently occupy 21,258 square meters of office space, which has been certified with LEED core & shell Gold - representing a state-of-the-art workplace for trivago. The lease provides for a fixed ten-year term plus two renewal options, each for a term of five years. Initially, trivago N.V. was the sole tenant of the building and the building was, therefore, built to our specifications.
As a result of negotiations of our lease contract for the Campus in Düsseldorf, Germany, we signed an amendment to the contract, which became effective in January 2021. The agreement includes the return of unused office spaces and a corresponding reduction of rent, as well as the sale of certain fixed assets related to the space to the landlord. Please refer to Item 5A Operating Revenue - "Costs across multiple categories" below and Note 7 - Leases in the notes to our consolidated financial statements for further details.
We have additional 381 square meters of leased office space in Spain.
Item 4A: Unresolved staff comments
Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects
You should read the following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this annual report. In addition to historical information, this discussion contains forward-looking statements based on our current expectations that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including those set forth in “Item 3: Key information - D. Risk factors” and “Special note regarding forward-looking statements” sections and elsewhere in this annual report.
For a discussion of the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to December 31, 2019, refer to the section contained in our Annual Report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, "Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects."
A. Operating results
Our total revenue for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021 was €248.9 million and €361.4 million, respectively, representing an increase of 45%. Our Referral Revenue for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021 was €238.4 million and €349.4 million, respectively, representing an increase of 47%.
In the year ended December 31, 2021, Referral Revenue increased on a year-over-year basis by 57% and 59% in Americas and Developed Europe, respectively, while it decreased by 1% in Rest of World compared to the same period in 2020.
We recorded a net loss for the year ended December 31, 2020 of €245.4 million, compared to net income for the year ended December 31, 2021 of €10.7 million, representing an increase of €256.1 million from 2020 to 2021.
Adjusted EBITDA for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021 was €(12.3) million and €34.6 million, respectively.
Key factors affecting our financial condition and results of operations
How we earn and monitor revenue
We earn substantially all of our revenue when users of our websites and apps click on hotel offers or advertisements in our search results and are referred to one of our advertisers. We call this our Referral Revenue. Each advertiser determines the amount that it wants to pay for each referral by bidding for advertisements on our marketplace. We also offer the option for our advertisers to participate in our marketplace on a cost-per-acquisition, or CPA, basis. We continue to onboard additional advertisers to the CPA model. See “Item 4: Information on the company - B. Business overview - Marketplace."
We also earn revenue by offering our advertisers B2B solutions, such as display advertisements, white label services, and subscription fees earned from advertisers for the trivago Business Studio PRO Package. These revenues do not represent a significant portion of our revenue.
Key metrics we use to monitor our revenue include the number of Qualified Referrals we make, the revenue we earn for each Qualified Referral, or RPQR, and our Return on Advertising Spend, or ROAS.
We use the term “referral” to describe each time a visitor to one of our websites or apps clicks on a hotel offer in our search results and is referred to one of our advertisers. We charge our advertisers for each referral mostly on a CPC, basis.
Since a visitor may generate several referrals on the same day, but typically intends to only make one booking on a given day, we track and monitor the number of Qualified Referrals from our platform. We define a "Qualified Referral" as a unique visitor per day that generates at least one referral. For example, if a single visitor clicks on multiple accommodation offers in our search results in a given day, they count as multiple referrals, but as only one Qualified Referral. While we charge advertisers for every referral, we believe that the Qualified Referral metric is a helpful proxy for the number of unique visitors to our site with booking intent, which is the type of visitor our advertisers are interested in and which we believe supports bidding levels in our marketplace.
We believe the primary factors that drive changes in our Qualified Referral levels are the number of visits to our websites and apps, the booking intent of our visitors, the number of available accommodations on our search platform, content (the quality and availability of general information, reviews and pictures about the hotels), hotel room prices (the price of accommodation as well as the number of price sources for each accommodation), hotel ratings, the user friendliness of our websites and apps and the degree of customization of our search results for each visitor. In the short term, our Qualified Referral levels are also heavily impacted by changes in our investment in Advertising Spend, as we rely on advertisements to attract users to our platform. Ultimately, we aim to increase the number and booking conversion of Qualified Referrals we generate by focusing on making incremental improvements to each of these parameters. In addition to continuously seeking to expand our network in hotel advertisers and alternative accommodations, we partner with such hotels or service providers to improve content, and we constantly test and improve the features of our websites and apps to improve the user experience, including our interface, user friendliness and personalization for each visitor.
The following table sets forth the number of Qualified Referrals for our reportable segments for the periods indicated:
Year ended December 31,
|(in millions) (unaudited)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Americas ||70.5 ||82.6 ||17.2 ||%|
|Developed Europe ||90.9 ||119.6 ||31.6 ||%|
|Rest of World ||79.2 ||80.0 ||1.0 ||%|
|Total ||240.5 ||282.2 ||17.3 ||%|
Revenue per Qualified Referral (RPQR)
We use average Revenue per Qualified Referral, or RPQR, to measure how effectively we convert Qualified Referrals to revenue. RPQR is calculated as Referral Revenue divided by the total number of Qualified Referrals in a given period. Alternatively, RPQR can be separated into its price and volume components and calculated as follows:
RPQR = RPR x click-out rate
RPR = revenue per referral
click-out rate = referrals / Qualified Referrals
RPQR is determined by the CPC bids or CPA targets our advertisers submit on our marketplace. CPC bids submitted by our advertisers (or a CPC equivalent in the case of advertisers billed on a CPA basis) play an important role in determining the prominence given to offers and their placement in our search results. Advertisers can analyze the number of referrals obtained from their advertisements on our marketplace and the consequent value generated from a referral based on the booking value they receive
from users referred from our site to determine the amount they are willing to bid. Accordingly, the bidding behavior of our advertisers is influenced by the rate at which our Qualified Referrals result in bookings on their websites, or booking conversion, and the amount our advertisers obtain from Qualified Referrals as a result of hotels and other accommodation booked on their sites, or booking value. The quality of the traffic we generate for our advertisers increases when aggregate booking conversion and/or aggregate booking value increases. We estimate overall booking conversion and booking value from data voluntarily provided to us by certain advertisers to better understand the drivers in our marketplace and, in particular, to gain insight into how our advertisers manage their advertising campaigns. Assuming unchanged dynamics in the market beyond our marketplace, we would expect that the higher the potential booking value or conversion generated by a Qualified Referral and the more competitive the bidding, the more an advertiser is willing to bid for a hotel advertisement on our marketplace. The dynamics in the market beyond our marketplace are not static, and we believe that our advertisers continuously review their Advertising Spend on our platform and on other advertising channels, and continuously seek to optimize their allocation of their spending among us and our competitors.
RPQR is a key financial metric that indicates the quality of our referrals, the efficiency of our marketplace and, as a consequence, how effectively we monetize the referrals we provide our advertisers. Furthermore, we use RPQR to help us detect and analyze changes in market dynamics.
The following table sets forth the RPQR for our reportable segments for the periods indicated (based on Referral Revenue):
|Year ended December 31,||% Change|
|RPQR in € (unaudited)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Developed Europe ||1.13||1.37||21.2%|
|Rest of World ||0.58||0.57||(1.7)%|
The following tables set forth the percentage change year-over-year in each of the components of RPQR for our reportable segments for the years indicated. Percentages calculated below are based on the unrounded amounts and therefore may not recalculate on a rounded basis.
|Year ended December 31,|
|% increase in RPR (unaudited)||2021 vs 2020|
|Developed Europe||25.4 ||%|
|Rest of World||0.0 ||%|
|Year ended December 31,|
|% increase in number of referrals (unaudited)||2021 vs 2020|
|Developed Europe||26.8 ||%|
|Rest of World||(0.1)||%|
|Year ended December 31,|
|% increase in Qualified Referrals (unaudited)||2021 vs 2020|
|Developed Europe||31.6 ||%|
|Rest of World||1.0 ||%|
|Year ended December 31,|
|% decrease in click-out (unaudited)||2021 vs 2020|
|Rest of World||(1.0)||%|
Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS)
We track the ratio of our Referral Revenue to our advertising expenses, or ROAS. We believe that ROAS is an indicator of the effectiveness of our advertising, and it is our primary operating metric. We believe the development of our ROAS among the reportable segments is primarily related to the different stages of development of our markets. For example, in Developed Europe, where we have operated the longest on average, we have historically experienced the highest average ROAS. Our ROAS in the Rest of World segment, where we have the lowest average ROAS, is also impacted significantly by the number of markets in the segment, including markets that have the lowest brand awareness.
Historically, we believe that our advertising has been successful in generating additional revenue. We invest in many kinds of marketing channels, such as TV, search engine marketing, display and affiliate marketing, email marketing, social media, online video, mobile app marketing, content marketing, sponsorship and endorsement.
Our ROAS by reportable segment for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021 was as follows:
|Year ended December 31, |
|ROAS by segment (unaudited)||2020||2021|
|Americas ||156.8 ||%||148.9 ||%|
|Developed Europe ||169.3 ||%||153.0 ||%|
|Rest of World ||143.2 ||%||202.9 ||%|
|Consolidated ROAS||158.9 ||%||156.3 ||%|
In the year ended December 31, 2021, consolidated ROAS decreased to 156.3% compared to 158.9% in the same period in 2020. ROAS decreased by 7.9ppts and 16.3ppts in Americas and Developed Europe, respectively, while it increased by 59.7ppts in RoW, compared to the same period in 2020.
The decreases in ROAS in Americas and Developed Europe were mainly driven by significant increases in Advertising Spend in response to increased travel demand. The increase in ROAS in RoW was driven by a reduction in Advertising Spend in 2021 that more than offset the declines in Qualified Referrals and RPQR, particularly in Asia, where many markets continue to be subject to significant mobility restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Advertising Spend increased by 65.1% and 76.0% in Americas and Developed Europe, respectively, while it decreased by 30.1% in RoW, compared to the same period in 2020.
Our advertisers regularly adjust the CPC and CPA bids they submit on our marketplace to reflect the levels of referrals, customers, bookings or revenue and profit they intend to achieve with their marketing spend on our platform. In recent years, we have observed a number of factors can influence their bidding behavior on our marketplace, including:
•The fees advertisers are willing to pay based on how they manage their advertising costs and their targeted return on investment;
•Our advertisers' testing of their bidding strategies and the extent to which they make their inventories available on our marketplace;
•Responses of advertisers to elevated levels of volatility on our marketplace;
•Advertiser competition for the placement of their offers; and
•Our advertisers’ response to changes made to our marketplace.
Recent and ongoing trends in our business
The following recent and ongoing trends have contributed to the results of our consolidated operations, and we anticipate that they will continue to impact our future results.
Our business and operating results for 2021 continued to be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel to and within many countries, particularly in Europe, being heavily restricted for a significant part of 2021. Despite the emergence of new variants of the COVID-19 virus and the increasing uncertainty around the effectiveness of vaccines against variants that appear to be more contagious, Referral Revenue, Qualified Referrals and Revenue per Qualified Referrals in 2021 increased significantly compared to 2020, although our business levels in 2021 were significantly below 2019 levels.
Spikes in COVID-19 cases have occurred globally with particular severity in the winter of 2021-22 with the emergence of the Omicron variant. It appears however, that even with the substantial uptick in cases, the COVID-19 virus has mutated in such a way that it is causing less severe infections, resulting in the imposition of fewer restrictive measures than had been in place in the winter of 2020-21. Many governments are moving towards accepting COVID-19 as endemic, and we expect them to continue to gradually lighten the restrictive measures that remain in place. However, some parts of our business, such as business travel and city trips, continue to be substantially below pre-pandemic levels.
The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us better understand our brand marketing performance. As we almost completely ceased advertising on television in 2020 and resumed such advertising at reduced levels in 2021, we anticipate that we will not benefit in the same way in terms of direct traffic to our website from prior campaigns in the next years as had been the case in the past. As a result, we anticipate that we would need to invest in television advertising campaigns in the next years to rebuild our pre-pandemic direct traffic baseline.
Our ultimate financial performance will depend on a number of factors relating to the world’s continued emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the threat of future variants of the virus that could prove deadlier or more contagious. Should our recovery from the pandemic progress more slowly than we have assumed or we suffer greater setbacks, this will likely have a significant adverse effect on our future financial performance.
In particular, there is considerable uncertainty to what extent and when our largest advertisers will resume advertising on our platform in the future at levels similar to (or approaching) those preceding the pandemic. Our recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic may be affected by a number of factors including:
•our advertisers’ future willingness to emphasize us as a traffic acquisition channel and to increase their bids on our marketplace to pre-pandemic levels;
•our future marginal returns on Advertising Spend once we resume significant marketing activities (particularly on TV);
•the effect on our advertising strategy as a result of the accelerated shift from linear TV to digital formats;
•travelers' preferences for types of destinations (e.g., cities) or accommodation types that we have historically been better able to monetize but have had a declining share during the pandemic;
•the timing of the recovery, if any, of certain kinds of travel (e.g., business travel) as a result of the pandemic;
•further industry consolidation;
•the continued effect of competition on us, particularly from Google Hotel Ads; and
•the continued declining share of first-time users that we can deliver to our largest OTA advertisers, which may have been accelerated by the pandemic and may, in turn, negatively affect RPQR.
Restructuring and management of operational expenditures
In response to this challenging environment due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we successfully implemented restructuring measures in 2020 to maintain our cash liquidity and reduce our operating expenses. No restructuring costs were incurred in the year ended December 31, 2021. See Note 9 - Restructuring in the notes to our consolidated financial statements for further details.
In 2021, we continued to be disciplined with our operational expenditures, decreasing our total costs and expenses (excluding Advertising Spend and impairment of goodwill) by €16.1 million or 11.2% in 2021, compared to 2020.
Government subsidy program
We took advantage of a COVID-19 subsidy program and received a €12.0 million payment from the German government in the fourth quarter of 2021 recognized as other income. The German government provided this assistance to compensate for losses incurred in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first half in 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
New business initiatives
We continue to make efforts to diversify our revenue beyond our core product of accommodation search, although Referral Revenue continues to account for the great majority of our Total Revenue. We have started to develop business-to-business (B2B) solutions including, for example, white label accommodation meta search solutions for integration into our partners’ websites. While these efforts are still in their early stages, we believe there is an opportunity to serve our business customers with a broader set of solutions.
Goodwill impairment charge
In 2020, we recorded an impairment charge of €207.6 million due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. We performed our annual goodwill impairment analysis in the third quarter of 2021. No impairment charge was recorded in the year ended December 31, 2021. For more information on the impairment charge, see Note 8 - Goodwill and intangible assets, net in the notes to our consolidated financial statements.
Travelers increasingly access the Internet from multiple devices, including desktop computers, smartphones and tablets. We continue to develop our websites and apps to further enhance our hotel search experience across all devices. We offer responsive mobile websites and several apps that allow travelers to use our services from smartphones and tablets running on Android and iOS. In the year ended December 31, 2021, our revenue share from mobile websites and apps continued to exceed 60%.
Visitors to our search platform via mobile phones and tablets generally result in bookings for our advertisers at a lower rate than visitors to our platform via desktop. We believe this is due to a general difference in the usage patterns of mobile phones and tablets. We believe many visitors use mobile phones and tablets as part of their search process, but prefer finalizing hotel selections and completing their bookings on desktop websites. This may be due in part to users generally finding the booking completion processes, including entering payment information, somewhat easier or more secure on a desktop than on a mobile device. We believe that over time and as more travelers become accustomed to mobile transactions, this sentiment may shift.
We have historically had, and currently have, a single price structure for referrals from both desktop and mobile. We may choose to adopt a differentiated pricing model between mobile and desktop applications, which would likely lead to an increase in desktop revenue share, as the pricing for desktop applications would increase due to higher conversion rates, while the pricing for apps on mobile and tablets would likely decrease. We do not expect this to have a material impact on revenue, as long as there are sufficient active participants on both desktop and mobile to ensure our marketplace functions effectively, as we believe that the current bids advertisers place on our CPC-based bidding system reflect the overall efficacy of the combined desktop and mobile prices they receive.
We continue to generate most of our Referral Revenue from a limited number of OTAs. Certain brands affiliated as of the date hereof with our majority shareholder, Expedia Group, including Brand Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, Wotif, Vrbo and ebookers, in the aggregate, accounted for 26% of our Referral Revenue for the year ended 2021. Booking Holdings and its affiliated brands, Booking.com, Agoda and priceline.com accounted for 55% of our Referral Revenue for the year ended 2021. Although we believe we will ultimately receive a portion of the additional booking value we generate for our advertisers, the fact that a significant portion of our Referral Revenue is generated from brands affiliated with Expedia Group and Booking Holdings can permit them to obtain the same or increased levels of referrals, customers, bookings or revenue and profit at lower cost.
Results of Operations
Comparison of the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021:
|Year ended December 31,||% Change|
|(in thousands)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Consolidated statement of operations:|
|Revenue ||€||181,491 ||€||270,110 ||48.8 ||%|
|Revenue from related party ||67,430 ||91,355 ||35.5 ||%|
|Total revenue ||€||248,921 ||€||361,465 ||45.2 ||%|
|Costs and expenses:|
|Cost of revenue||10,133 ||11,500 ||13.5 ||%|
Selling and marketing
|178,255 ||249,196 ||39.8 ||%|
|Technology and content ||64,258 ||52,374 ||(18.5)||%|
|General and administrative||40,935 ||38,208 ||(6.7)||%|
|Amortization of intangible assets ||373 ||136 ||(63.5)||%|
|Impairment of goodwill||207,618 ||— ||(100.0)||%|
|Operating income/(loss)||€||(252,651)||€||10,051 ||104.0 ||%|
|Other, net ||(212)||13,628 ||n.m.|
|Total other income/(expense), net||€||(482)||€||13,239 ||n.m.|
|Income/(loss) before income taxes ||(253,133)||23,290 ||n.m.|
|Expense/(benefit) for income taxes||(8,494)||12,586 ||n.m.|
|Income/(loss) before equity method investment||€||(244,639)||€||10,704 ||n.m.|
|Income/(loss) from equity method investment||(739)||— ||100.0 ||%|
|Net income/(loss)||€||(245,378)||€||10,704 ||n.m.|
n.m. not meaningful
|Year ended December 31,|
Consolidated statement of operations as a percent of total revenue:
|Revenue||72.9 ||%||74.7 ||%|
|Revenue from related party||27.1 ||%||25.3 ||%|
|Total revenue||100.0 ||%||100.0 ||%|
|Costs and expenses:|
|Cost of revenue||4.1 ||%||3.2 ||%|
|Selling and marketing||71.6 ||%||68.9 ||%|
|Technology and content||25.8 ||%||14.5 ||%|
|General and administrative||16.4 ||%||10.6 ||%|
|Amortization of intangible assets||0.1 ||%||0.0 ||%|
|Impairment of goodwill||83.4 ||%||— ||%|
|Operating income/(loss)||(101.5)||%||2.8 ||%|
|Other, net ||(0.1)||%||3.8 ||%|
|Total other income/(expense), net||(0.2)||%||3.7 ||%|
|Income/(loss) before income taxes ||(101.7)||%||6.4 ||%|
|Expense/(benefit) for income taxes||(3.4)||%||3.5 ||%|
|Income/(loss) before equity method investment||(98.3)||%||3.0 ||%|
|Income/(loss) from equity method investment||(0.3)||%||— ||%|
|Net income/(loss)||(98.6)||%||3.0 ||%|
Our total revenue in the year ended December 31, 2021 consisted of Referral Revenue of €349.4 million and other revenue of €12.0 million.
Total revenue for the year ended December 31, 2021 was €361.4 million, representing an increase of €112.5 million, or 45.2%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020. Revenue from related parties for the year ended December 31, 2021 increased by €24.0 million, or 35.5%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, while revenue from third parties increased by €88.6 million, or 48.8% for the same period.
Referral revenue for the year ended December 31, 2021 was €349.4 million, representing an increase of €111.0 million, or 46.6%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020.
The increase in Referral Revenue was primarily driven by increases in Qualified Referrals and RPQR in Americas and Developed Europe, while Qualified Referrals and RPQR in RoW remained virtually flat compared to the year ended December 31, 2020.
The year-over-year increase in Qualified Referrals was most pronounced in Americas and Developed Europe as a result of significant increase in traffic volumes starting in the second quarter of 2021, reflecting the easing of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions in those geographic markets. In RoW, Qualified Referrals remained almost unchanged as traffic volumes continued to be muted in certain geographic markets, particularly in Asia, reflecting the persistence of mobility restrictions.
In the year ended December 31, 2021, the increase in RPQR was mainly driven by higher bidding levels in Americas and Developed Europe starting in the second quarter of 2021. In RoW, RPQR continued to be negatively impacted by mobility restrictions, particularly in many Asian geographical markets.
The breakdown of Referral Revenue by reportable segment is as follows:
|Year ended December 31,||% Change|
|(in millions)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Americas ||€||89.3 ||€||140.1 ||56.9 ||%|
|Developed Europe ||102.9 ||163.7 ||59.1 ||%|
|Rest of World ||46.1 ||45.6 ||(1.1)||%|
|Total||€||238.4 ||€||349.4 ||46.6 ||%|
Note: Some figures may not add due to rounding.
Referral Revenue in Americas in the year ended December 31, 2021 increased by €50.8 million, or 56.9%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020. The year-over year increase in Referral Revenue in this segment was mainly driven by an increase in Qualified Referrals and RPQR.
Qualified Referrals increased significantly starting from the second quarter of 2021, due to the increase in traffic volumes, primarily a result of the easing of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions in those geographic markets. RPQR increased by €0.43, or by 33.9% in the year ended December 31, 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, primarily due to higher bidding levels starting in the second quarter of 2021. RPR increased by 37.9%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020.
Referral Revenue in Developed Europe in the year ended December 31, 2021 increased by €60.8 million, or 59.1%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020 which was mainly driven by an increase in Qualified Referrals and RPQR.
RPQR increased by €0.24, or by 21.2% in the year ended December 31, 2021 compared to the year ended December 31, 2020 due to higher bidding levels starting in the second quarter of 2021. The RPR for the period increased by 25.4%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020.
Referral Revenue in RoW in the year ended December 31, 2021 decreased by €0.5 million, or 1.1%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, due to a slight decrease in RPQR partly offset by a slight increase in Qualified Referrals. In RoW, Qualified Referrals remained almost unchanged as traffic volumes continued to be muted in certain geographic markets, particularly in Asia, reflecting the persistence of mobility restrictions.
RPQR decreased by €0.01, or 1.7% in the year ended December 31, 2021 compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, reflecting the continued negative impact of mobility restrictions, particularly in many Asian geographical markets. The RPR for the period remained the same compared to the year ended December 31, 2020.
Cost of revenue and expenses
Cost of revenue
Our cost of revenue consists primarily of our third-party cloud-related service provider expenses, data center costs, personnel-related expenses and share-based compensation for our data center operations staff and our customer service team.
Cost of revenue was €11.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2021, and increased by €1.4 million, or 14%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020. The increase was mainly driven by higher cloud-related service provider costs.
Selling and marketing
Selling and marketing is divided into advertising expense and other selling and marketing expenses, as well as share-based compensation expense.
Advertising expense consists of fees that we pay for our various marketing channels like TV, search engine marketing, display and affiliate marketing, email marketing, online video, app marketing, content marketing, and sponsoring and endorsement.
Other selling and marketing expenses include personnel-related expenses for our marketing, sales and hotel relations teams, as well as production costs for our TV spots and other marketing material, and other professional fees such as market research costs.
|Year ended December 31,||% Change|
|(in millions)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Advertising expense ||€||150.0 ||€||223.6 ||49.1 ||%|
|% of total revenue ||60.3 ||%||61.9 ||%|
|Other selling and marketing||27.1 ||24.6 ||(9.2)||%|
|% of total revenue ||10.9 ||%||6.8 ||%|
|Share-based compensation||1.2 ||1.1 ||(8.3)||%|
|% of total revenue ||0.5 ||%||0.3 ||%|
Total selling and marketing expense (1)
|€||178.3 ||€||249.2 ||39.8 ||%|
|% of total revenue ||71.6 ||%||69.0 ||%|
Note: Some figures may not add due to rounding.
Selling and marketing expenses for the year ended December 31, 2021 increased by €70.9 million, or 39.8%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, primarily driven by significant increases in Advertising Spend in Americas and Developed Europe.
Advertising Spend increased by €73.6 million, or 49.1%, in the year ended December 31, 2021 compared to the year ended December 31, 2020. We increased our Advertising Spend to €94.1 million and €107.0 million in Americas and Developed Europe, respectively, while we decreased it to €22.5 million in RoW, compared to €57.0 million, €60.8 million and €32.2 million, respectively, in the year ended December 31, 2020. In Americas and Developed Europe, we increased our Advertising Spend significantly, reflecting the increase in travel demand starting in the second quarter of 2021. In RoW, many geographic markets were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related mobility restrictions, and therefore, our marketing activities in those markets were lower than in the markets included in our other segments.
Other selling and marketing expenses excluding share-based compensation for the year ended December 31, 2021 decreased by €2.5 million, or 9.2%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, primarily driven by lower personnel-related costs, partly offset by higher professional fees and other expenses.
Personnel-related costs for the year ended December 31, 2021 decreased by €5.2 million, or 33.8%, mainly due to lower headcount and the non-recurrence of restructuring costs compared to the same period in 2020 (see "Costs across multiple categories" below). Professional fees and other expenses for the year ended December 31, 2021 increased by €1.6 million, compared to the same period in 2020,
mainly driven by higher digital sales tax expenses and expenses incurred to acquire traffic, partly offset by lower office-related expenses (see "Costs across multiple categories" below).
Technology and content
Technology and content expense consists primarily of expenses for technology development, product development and hotel search personnel and overhead, depreciation and amortization of technology assets including hardware, purchased and internally developed software and other professional fees (primarily licensing and maintenance expense), including share-based compensation expense.
|Year Ended December 31,||% Change|
|(in millions)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Personnel ||€||37.4 ||€||30.0 ||(19.8)||%|
|Share-based compensation||3.8 ||3.9 ||2.6 ||%|
|Depreciation of technology assets||7.2 ||6.0 ||(16.7)||%|
|Professional fees and other||15.8 ||12.4 ||(21.5)||%|
|Total technology and content ||€||64.3 ||€||52.4 ||(18.5)||%|
|% of total revenue ||25.8%||14.5 ||%|
Note: Some figures may not add due to rounding.
Technology and content expense for the year ended December 31, 2021 decreased by €11.9 million, or 18.5%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, mainly due to lower personnel-related costs and lower professional fees and other expenses.
Personnel-related costs for the year ended December 31, 2021 decreased by €7.4 million, or 19.8%, mainly due to lower average headcount and the non-recurrence of restructuring costs compared to the same period in 2020 (see "Costs across multiple categories" below).
Professional fees and other expenses decreased by €3.4 million, or 21.5%, mainly due to lower office-related expenses and lower depreciation expense resulting mainly from the consolidation of our office locations, and by a gain realized in the first quarter of 2021 on the modification of the lease for our Düsseldorf campus, see "Costs across multiple categories" below. These were partly offset by higher third-party IT service provider costs.
General and administrative
General and administrative expense consists primarily of personnel-related costs including those of our executive leadership, finance, legal and human resource functions, as well as professional fees for external services including legal, tax and accounting. It also includes other overhead costs, depreciation and share-based compensation.
Year ended December 31,
|(in millions)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Personnel ||€||16.6 ||€||13.5 ||(18.7)||%|
|Share-based compensation ||9.9 ||12.0 ||21.2 ||%|
|Professional fees and other ||14.4 ||12.7 ||(11.8)||%|
|Total general and administrative ||€||40.9 ||€||38.2 ||(6.6)||%|
|% of total revenue ||16.4%||10.6%|
General and administrative expense for the year ended December 31, 2021 decreased by €2.7 million, or 6.6%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, primarily due to lower personnel-related costs and lower professional fees and other expenses.
Personnel-related costs for the year ended December 31, 2021 decreased by €3.1 million, or 18.7%, mainly due to the non-recurrence of restructuring costs and lower average headcount compared to the same period in 2020 (see "Costs across multiple categories" below).
Share-based compensation increased by €2.1 million, or 21.2%, for the year ended December 31, 2021, which was mainly driven by new grants partly offset by award forfeitures during the year.
Professional fees and other expenses decreased by €1.7 million, or 11.8%, as other expenses in 2020 included the impact of a cyber-related fraud case.
Costs across multiple categories
In the year ended December 31, 2020, we undertook a restructuring, making significant headcount reductions and consolidating our office locations, all in response to the contraction in our business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also reduced our office space in Düsseldorf and recorded a €1.2 million gain on the campus lease modification in the first quarter of 2021.
As a result of the reduction of the Düsseldorf office space and of the consolidation of our office locations, office expense decreased by €3.8 million in year ended December 31, 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. Office space reductions were also the main driver for the decrease in our depreciation expense of €2.3 million in the year ended December 31, 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.
The reduction of office-related expenses and depreciation expenses led to a decrease of technology and content expense by €3.4 million, selling and marketing expense by €1.5 million and general and administrative expense by €1.0 million in the year ended December 31, 2021, compared to the year ended December 31, 2020.
Personnel costs included restructuring costs of €6.3 million in the year ended December 31, 2020. Charges recorded in technology and content expense were €2.9 million, €1.8 million in selling and marketing expense and €1.6 million in general and administrative expense. No restructuring costs related to personnel were incurred in the year ended December 31, 2021.
Amortization of intangible assets
Amortization of intangible assets was €0.1 million in the year ended December 31, 2021 and decreased by €0.3 million compared to the year ended December 31, 2020, as the underlying assets, recognized by Expedia Group upon the acquisition of a majority stake in trivago in 2013, were fully amortized in the first quarter of 2020.
Impairment of goodwill
There was no impairment charge recorded in the year ended December 31, 2021. We recorded an impairment charge of €207.6 million in the year ended December 31, 2020. See Note 8 - Goodwill and intangible assets, net in the notes to our consolidated financial statements for further details.
Our operating income was €10.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2021 compared to an operating loss of €252.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2020. The increase was mainly driven by the non-recurrence of goodwill impairment charges of €207.6 million recorded in the first quarter of 2020. The
increase was further driven by an increase in Referral Revenue of €111.0 million in the year ended December 31, 2021, which was partly offset by an increase in Advertising Spend in an amount of €73.6 million. Reductions in operating expenses (excluding Advertising Spend and goodwill) further contributed to the increase in operating income.
Other income for the year ended December 31, 2021 was €13.2 million and increased by €13.7 million compared to other expense of €0.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2020. The increase was mainly driven by a €12.0 million COVID-19 subsidy received from the German government in the year ended December 31, 2021.
Expense (benefit) for income taxes
Year ended December 31,
|(in millions)||2020||2021||2021 vs 2020|
|Expense/(benefit) for income taxes ||€||(8.5)||€||12.6 ||248.2 ||%|
|Effective tax rate ||3.4 ||%||54.0 ||%|
The income tax expense/(benefit) is mainly driven by income before income taxes of €23.3 million in 2021 and a loss of €253.1 million in 2020. Our effective tax rate was 54.0% in 2021 compared to 3.4% in 2020. Non-deductible share-based compensation of (pre-tax) €17.3 million in 2021 and €15.1 million in 2020 had an impact on the effective tax rates of 23.1% and (1.9)% in the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, respectively. In 2020, non-deductible impairment expenses on goodwill of €207.6 million had an impact on the effective tax rate of (25.6)%. The details on the movement in valuation allowance are included in Note 11 - Income taxes in the notes to our consolidated financial statements. Other differences relate to one-off items during the year, such as non-deductible expenses which are individually insignificant.
Quantitative and qualitative disclosures about market risk
Market risk is the potential loss from adverse changes in interest rates, foreign exchange rates and market prices. Our exposure to market risk includes our credit facility, cash, accounts receivable, intercompany receivables, investments and accounts payable. We manage our exposure to these risks through established policies and procedures. Our objective is to mitigate potential income statement, cash flow and market exposures from changes in interest and foreign exchange rates.
Interest rate risk
We did not experience any significant impact from changes in interest rates and had no amounts outstanding under our credit facility during the year ended December 31, 2021. The facility was cancelled by the lender in early 2021.
Foreign exchange risk
We conduct business in many countries throughout the world. Because we operate in markets globally, we have exposure to different economic climates, political arenas, tax systems and regulations that could affect foreign exchange rates. Our primary exposure to foreign currency risk relates to transacting in foreign currency and recording the activity in euro. A large portion of our advertising expenses are
incurred in the local currency of the particular geographic market in which we advertise, with a significant amount incurred in U.S. dollar. The vast majority of our revenue is denominated in euro. Changes in exchange rates between the functional currency of our consolidated entities and these other currencies will result in transaction gains or losses, which we recognize in our consolidated statements of operations. Our foreign exchange risk relates primarily to the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the euro.
Changes in foreign exchange rates can amplify or mute changes in the underlying trends in our revenues and RPQR. Although we have relatively little direct foreign currency translation with respect to our revenue, we believe that our advertisers’ decisions on the share of their booking revenues they are willing to pay to us are based on the currency in which the hotels being booked are priced. Accordingly, we have observed that advertisers tend to adjust their CPC bidding based on the relative strengthening or weakening of the euro as compared to the local functional currency in which the booking with our advertisers is denominated.
Future net transaction gains and losses are inherently difficult to predict as they are reliant on how the multiple currencies in which we transact fluctuate in relation to the functional currency of our consolidated entities, the relative composition and denomination of current assets and liabilities for each period, and our effectiveness at forecasting and managing, through balance sheet netting, such exposures. As an example, if the foreign currencies in which we hold net asset balances were to depreciate by 10% against the euro and other currencies in which we hold net liability balances were to appreciate by 10% against the euro, we would recognize foreign exchange losses of €2.9 million based on the net asset or liability balances of our foreign denominated cash, accounts receivable and accounts payable balances as of December 31, 2021. As the net composition of these balances fluctuate frequently, even daily, as do foreign exchange rates, the example loss could be compounded or reduced significantly within a given period.
During the year ended December 31, 2021 we had net foreign exchange rate gains of €1.6 million compared to losses of €0.8 million in the year ended December 31, 2020.
Concentration of credit risk
Our business is subject to certain risks and concentrations including dependence on relationships with our advertisers, dependence on third-party technology providers, and exposure to risks associated with online commerce security. Our concentration of credit risk relates to depositors holding our cash and customers with significant accounts receivable balances.
Our customer base includes primarily OTAs, hotel chains and independent hotels. We perform ongoing credit evaluations of our customers and maintain allowances for potential credit losses. We generally do not require collateral or other security from our customers. Expedia Group and affiliates represented 25% of our total revenue for the year ended December 31, 2021 and 41% of total accounts receivable as of December 31, 2021. Booking Holdings and its affiliates represented 54% of our revenue for the year ended December 31, 2021 and 31% of total accounts receivable as of December 31, 2021.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
Critical accounting policies and estimates are those that we believe are important in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements because they require that we use judgment and estimates in applying those policies. We prepare our consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States. Preparation of the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes requires that we make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities as of the date of the consolidated financial statements, as well as revenue and expenses during the periods reported. We base our estimates on historical experience, where applicable, and other assumptions that
we believe are reasonable under the circumstances. Actual results may differ from our estimates under different assumptions or conditions.
There are certain critical estimates that we believe require significant judgment in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements. We consider an accounting estimate to be critical if:
•It requires us to make an assumption because information was not available at the time or it included matters that were highly uncertain at the time we were making the estimate; and
•Changes in the estimate or different estimates that we could have selected may have had a material impact on our financial condition or results of operations.
For more information on each of these policies, see Note 2 - Significant accounting policies in the notes to our consolidated financial statements. We discuss information about the nature and rationale for our critical accounting estimates below.
We have operating leases for office space and office equipment. Operating lease right-of-use ("ROU") assets and lease liabilities are recognized at commencement date based on the present value of lease payments over the lease term.
Given the rate implicit in our leases is not typically readily determinable, we have to estimate the Incremental Borrowing Rate ("IBR") to be used as the discount rate in order to measure the present value of future lease payments.
On January 29, 2021, we entered into an amendment to the operating lease agreement for office space in our corporate headquarters, whereby the landlord agreed to grant us partial termination of the lease related to certain floor spaces. This amendment has been treated as a lease modification. See Note 7 - Leases in the notes to our consolidated financial statements for further details.
The IBR was used to derive gain or loss on lease modification and adjustments to operating lease ROU assets and lease liabilities as of the effective date of the lease modification. Estimating the IBR requires assessing a number of inputs including an estimated synthetic credit rating, collateral adjustments and interest rates. Selecting different inputs for this estimation may result in different gain or loss on lease modification and adjustments to operating lease ROU assets and lease liabilities. The selected IBR would have to change by more than 70 basis points to result in a materially different post-modification operating lease ROU assets and lease liabilities balance. The gain or loss recognized on lease modification would not have been materially different.
Recoverability of goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets
Goodwill is assigned to our three reporting units, which correspond to our three operating segments, on the basis of their relative fair values. We assess goodwill and indefinite-lived assets, neither of which are amortized, for impairment annually as of September 30, or more frequently, if events and circumstances indicate that an impairment may have occurred. In the evaluation of goodwill for impairment, we typically first perform a qualitative assessment to determine whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of each reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, followed by performing a quantitative assessment by comparing the fair value of the reporting unit to the carrying value, if necessary. Periodically, we may elect to bypass the initial qualitative assessment and proceed directly to the quantitative goodwill impairment test. An impairment charge is recorded based on the excess of the reporting unit's carrying amount over its fair value.
We generally base the measurement of fair value of our three reporting units on a blended analysis of the present value of future discounted cash flows and market valuation approach. The discounted cash flows model indicates the fair value of the reporting unit based on the present value of the cash flows that we expect the reporting unit to generate in the future. Our significant estimates in the discounted cash flows
model include our weighted average cost of capital, revenue growth rates, profitability of our business and long-term rate of growth. The market valuation approach indicates the fair value of the business based on a comparison of the reporting unit to comparable publicly traded firms in similar lines of business. Our significant estimates in the market approach model include identifying similar companies with comparable business factors, such as size, growth, profitability, risk and return on investment, assessing comparable revenue and operating income multiples and the control premium applied in estimating the fair value of the reporting unit.
We believe the weighted use of discounted cash flows and market approach is the best method for determining the fair value of our reporting units because these are the most common valuation methodologies used within the travel and Internet industries and the blended use of both models compensates for the inherent risks associated with either model if used on a stand-alone basis.
In addition to measuring the fair value of our reporting units as described above, we consider the combined fair values of our reporting units and corporate-level assets and liabilities in relation to the Company’s total fair value of equity as of the assessment date, which assumes our fully diluted market capitalization, using the average stock price over a range of dates around the valuation date, plus an estimated acquisition premium which is based on observable transactions of comparable companies.
In our evaluation of our indefinite-lived intangible assets, we typically first perform a qualitative assessment to determine whether the fair value of the indefinite-lived intangible assets is more likely than not impaired. If so, we perform a quantitative assessment and an impairment charge is recorded for the excess of the carrying value of the indefinite-lived intangible assets over the fair value. Periodically, we may elect to bypass the initial qualitative assessment and proceed directly to the quantitative impairment test of indefinite-lived intangible assets. We base our measurement of the fair value of our indefinite-lived intangible assets, which consist of trade name, trademarks, and domain names using the relief-from-royalty method. This method assumes that the trade name and trademarks have value to the extent that their owner is relieved of the obligation to pay royalties for the benefits received from them. This method requires us to estimate future revenue for the brand, the appropriate royalty rate and an applicable discount rate.
The use of different estimates or assumptions in determining the fair value of our goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets may result in different values, which could result in an impairment, or in the period in which an impairment is recognized, could result in a materially different impairment charge.
We performed our most recent quantitative goodwill assessment as of September 30, 2021. We did not record any impairment charge as a result of this assessment as the fair value of the reporting units were assessed to be higher than their carrying values. As of September 30, 2021, the amounts of goodwill allocated to the Developed Europe and Americas reporting units were €200.7 million and €87.0 million, respectively. There was no goodwill allocated to the Rest of World reporting unit as of September 30, 2021. The percentages by which fair value exceeded carrying value as of September 30, 2021 were 14.0% and 70.6% for the Developed Europe and Americas reporting units, respectively.
The most significant assumptions used in our analysis to determine the fair value of the reporting units are our weighted average cost of capital ("WACC") and long-term growth rate. Assuming all other assumptions remain constant, the selected WACC would have to increase by more than 150 basis points in each of the Developed Europe and Americas reporting units for a possibility of impairment to occur. The selected long-term growth rates were not sensitive for this assessment.
Recoverability of intangible assets with definite lives and other long-lived assets
Intangible assets with definite lives and other long-lived assets are carried at cost and are amortized on a straight-line basis over their estimated useful lives of generally less than seven years. We review the carrying value of long-lived assets or asset groups, including property and equipment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of the assets might not be recoverable. Factors that would necessitate an impairment assessment include a significant adverse change in the
extent or manner in which an asset is used, a significant adverse change in legal factors or the business climate that could affect the value of the asset, or a significant decline in the observable market value of an asset, among others. If such facts indicate a potential impairment, we would assess the recoverability of an asset group by determining if the carrying value of the asset group exceeds the sum of the projected undiscounted cash flows expected to result from the use and eventual disposition of the assets over the remaining economic life of the primary asset in the asset group. If the recoverability test indicates that the carrying value of the asset group is not recoverable, we will estimate the fair value of the asset group using appropriate valuation methodologies, which would typically include an estimate of discounted cash flows. Any impairment would be measured as the difference between the asset group’s carrying amount and its estimated fair value.
The use of different estimates or assumptions in determining the fair value of our intangible assets with definite lives and other long-lived assets may result in different values, which could result in an impairment, or in the period in which an impairment is recognized, could result in a materially different impairment charge.
We record income taxes under the liability method. Deferred tax assets and liabilities reflect our estimation of the future tax consequences of temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities for book and tax purposes. We determine deferred income taxes based on the differences in accounting methods and timing between financial statement and income tax reporting. Accordingly, we determine the deferred tax asset or liability for each temporary difference based on the enacted tax rates expected to be in effect when we realize the underlying items of income and expense. We consider many factors when assessing the likelihood of future realization of our deferred tax assets, including our recent earnings experience by jurisdiction, expectations of future taxable income, and the carryforward periods available to us for tax reporting purposes, as well as other relevant factors. We may establish a valuation allowance to reduce deferred tax assets to the amount we believe is more likely than not to be realized. Due to inherent complexities arising from the nature of our businesses, future changes in income tax law, tax sharing agreements or variances between our actual and anticipated results of operations, we make certain judgments and estimates. Therefore, actual income taxes could materially vary from these estimates.
We account for uncertain tax positions based on a two-step process of evaluating recognition and measurement criteria. The first step assesses whether the tax position is more likely than not to be sustained upon examination by the tax authority, including resolution of any appeals or litigation, based on the technical merits of the position. If the tax position meets the more likely than not criteria, the portion of the tax benefit greater than 50% likely to be realized upon settlement with the tax authority is recognized in the financial statements. Interest and penalties related to uncertain tax positions are classified in the financial statements as a component of income tax expense.
Legal and tax contingencies
We record liabilities to address potential exposures related to business and tax positions we have taken that have been or could be challenged by taxing authorities. In addition, we record liabilities associated with legal proceedings and lawsuits. These liabilities are recorded when the likelihood of payment is probable and the amounts can be reasonably estimated. The determination for required liabilities is based upon analysis of each individual tax issue, or legal proceeding, taking into consideration the likelihood of adverse judgments and the range of possible loss. In addition, our analysis may be based on discussions with outside legal counsel. The ultimate resolution of these potential tax exposures and legal proceedings may be greater or less than the liabilities recorded.
We allocate the value of the consideration to acquire a business to tangible assets and identifiable intangible assets acquired and liabilities assumed on the basis of their fair values at the date of acquisition. Any excess purchase price over the fair value of the net tangible and intangible assets acquired is allocated to goodwill. When determining the fair value of assets acquired and liabilities assumed, management makes significant estimates and assumptions, especially with respect to intangible assets. Management's estimates of fair value are based upon assumptions believed to be reasonable, but which are inherently uncertain and unpredictable and, as a result, actual results may differ from estimates.
Our share-based compensation relates to employee stock awards granted in connection with the trivago N.V. 2016 Incentive Plan. Employee stock options primarily consist of service based awards, some of which also have company-based and market-based performance conditions. We measure the fair value of share options at the grant date using the Black-Scholes option pricing model and the fair value of awards containing market-based conditions using a Monte Carlo simulation model. These models incorporate various assumptions including expected volatility of equity, expected term and risk-free interest rate. We amortize the fair value over the vesting term on a straight-line basis, and for performance based awards we assess as probable of achieving the performance targets, over the service period using the accelerated method. We account for forfeitures as they occur. If any of the assumptions used in the models change significantly for future grant valuations, share-based compensation expense may differ materially in the future from that recorded in the current period.
B. Liquidity and capital resources
For the year ended December 31, 2021, total cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash increased by €45.9 million to €256.7 million, of which €256.4 million were included in current assets and €0.3 million of long-term restricted cash were included in other long-term assets in the balance sheet. The increase in total cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash was mainly driven by positive cash flows from operating and investing activities.
Our known material liquidity needs for periods beyond the next twelve months are described below in “Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects - F. Tabular disclosure of contractual obligations.” We believe that our cash from operations, together with our cash balance are sufficient to meet our ongoing capital expenditures, working capital requirements and other capital needs for at least the next twelve months.
The following table summarizes our cash flows for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021:
|Year Ended December 31,|
| (in millions)||2020||2021|
|Cash flows provided by operating activities||€||7.9 ||€||32.5 |
|Cash flows provided by/(used in) investing activities||(16.2)||10.0 |
|Cash flows provided by/(used in) financing activities||(0.2)||1.1 |
Cash Flows Provided by Operating Activities
For the year ended December 31, 2021, net cash provided by operating activities increased by €24.7 million to €32.5 million.
This increase was mainly driven by net income adjusted by non-cash items totaling €42.9 million. Net income includes a cash inflow of €12.0 million from a COVID-19 subsidy received from the German government in the fourth quarter of 2021. The increase was partly offset by negative changes in operating assets and liabilities of €10.3 million. Changes in operating assets and liabilities were primarily due to an increase in accounts receivable of €25.8 million resulting mostly from higher revenues in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to fourth quarter of 2020, that was partly offset by an increase in tax payable of €8.6 million and in accounts payable of €6.9 million.
Non-cash items included in net income of €10.7 million consisted of share-based compensation of €17.3 million, deferred income taxes of €8.9 million and depreciation of €8.2 million, partly offset by foreign exchange gains of €1.6 million and by a gain of €1.2 million from the modification of the lease for our campus in Düsseldorf in the first quarter of 2021.
Cash Flows Provided by/(Used in) Investing Activities
For the year ended December 31, 2021, cash provided by investing activities was €10.0 million, mainly due to €19.3 million proceeds from sale and maturity investments. These were partly offset by a €4.3 million net cash outflow for a business acquisition in the first quarter of 2021 and €3.8 million cash outflow related to capital expenditures including internal-use software and website development.
Cash Flows Provided/(Used in) by Financing Activities
For the year ended December 31, 2021, cash provided by financing activities was €1.1 million, mainly due to proceeds from exercise of option awards.
C. Research and development expenses, patents and licenses, etc.
See “Item 4: Information on the company - B. Business overview.”
D. Trend information
See “Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects - A. Operating results.”
E. Off-balance sheet arrangements
Other than the items described below under “Item 5: Operating and financial review and prospects - F. Tabular disclosure of contractual obligations” as of December 31, 2021, we do not have any off-balance sheet arrangements, as defined in the rules and regulations of the SEC.
F. Tabular disclosure of contractual obligations
The following table summarizes our contractual obligations as of December 31, 2021:
|Payments due by period|
Operating leases, including imputed interest (1)(2)
|€||61.3 ||€||3.8 ||€||57.5 |
|Finance lease obligations||0.1 ||0.1 ||— |
|48.8 ||19.1 ||29.7 |
(1) Operating lease obligations include leases for office space and office equipment. Certain leases contain renewal options. Lease obligations expire at various dates with the latest maturity in 2038. Refer to Note 2 - Significant accounting policies for detailed discussion on our accounting for operating leases. The lease obligations have not been reduced by minimum sublease rental income due in the future under non-cancelable sublease agreements which is expected to be immaterial for the future period.
(2) Currently recognized on our balance sheet as of December 31, 2021 is an asset retirement obligation of €0.1 million for the cost to decommission office space. We have certain operating lease agreements that require us to decommission physical space for which we have not yet recorded an asset retirement obligation. Due to the uncertainty of specific decommissioning obligations, timing and related costs, we cannot reasonably estimate an asset retirement obligation for these properties and we have not recorded a liability at this time for such properties.
(3) Our purchase obligations represent the minimum obligations we have under agreements with certain of our vendors and marketing partners. These minimum obligations are less than our projected use for those periods. Payments may be more than the minimum obligations based on actual use.
(4) Excludes €2.9 million of net unrecognized tax benefits for which we cannot make a reasonably reliable estimate of the period of payment.
G. Safe Harbor
See “Special note regarding forward-looking statements.”
H. Non-GAAP financial measures
We report Adjusted EBITDA as a supplemental measure to U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). We define Adjusted EBITDA as net income/(loss) adjusted for:
•income/(loss) from equity method investment,
•expense/(benefit) for income taxes,
•total other (income)/expense, net,
•depreciation of property and equipment and amortization of intangible assets,
•impairment of, and gains and losses on disposals of, property and equipment,
•impairment of intangible assets and goodwill,
•share-based compensation, and
•certain other items, including restructuring.
From time to time going forward, we may exclude from Adjusted EBITDA the impact of certain events, gains, losses or other charges (such as restructuring charges and significant legal settlements) that affect the period-to-period comparability of our operating performance.
Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial measure. A “non-GAAP financial measure” refers to a numerical measure of a company’s historical or future financial performance, financial position, or cash flows that excludes (or includes) amounts that are included in (or excluded from) the most directly comparable measure calculated and presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP in such company’s financial statements. We present this non-GAAP financial measure because it is used by management to evaluate our operating performance, formulate business plans, and make strategic decisions on capital allocation. We also believe that this non-GAAP financial measure provides useful information to investors and others in understanding and evaluating our operating performance and consolidated results of operations in the same manner as our management, and the exclusion of certain expenses in calculating Adjusted EBITDA can provide a useful measure in comparing financial results between periods as these costs may vary independent of core business performance.
Our use of Adjusted EBITDA has limitations as an analytical tool, and you should not consider it in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of our results reported in accordance with U.S. GAAP, including net income/loss. Some of these limitations are:
•Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect our cash expenditures or future requirements for capital expenditures or contractual commitments;
•Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs;
•Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect expenses, such as restructuring and other related reorganization costs;
•Although depreciation, amortization and impairments are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated, amortized or impaired may have to be replaced in the future, and Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect cash capital expenditure requirements for such replacements or for new capital expenditure requirements; and
•Other companies, including companies in our own industry, may calculate Adjusted EBITDA differently than we do, limiting its usefulness as a comparative measure.
During the first quarter of 2020, we changed our definition of Adjusted EBITDA to better align with our industry and allow for a financial comparison across quarters that excludes the effects of impairment of intangibles assets and goodwill and certain other items, including restructuring.
The below table presents a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA to net income/(loss), the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure.
|Year Ended December 31,|
|Net income/(loss)||€||17,161 ||€||(245,378)||€||10,704 |
|Income/(loss) from equity method investment||453 ||(739)||— |
|Income/(loss) before equity method investment||€||16,708 ||€||(244,639)||€||10,704 |
|Expense/(benefit) for income taxes||20,982 ||(8,494)||12,586 |
|Income/(loss) before income taxes||€||37,690 ||€||(253,133)||€||23,290 |
|Interest expense||33 ||270 ||389 |
|Other, net||428 ||212 ||(13,628)|
|Operating income/(loss) ||€||38,151 ||€||(252,651)||€||10,051 |
|Depreciation of property and equipment and amortization of intangible assets||11,983 ||10,852 ||8,349 |
|Impairment of, and gains and losses on disposals of, property and equipment||(111)||597 ||283 |
|Impairment of intangible assets and goodwill||— ||207,618 ||— |
|Share-based compensation||19,891 ||15,079 ||17,261 |
|Certain other items, including restructuring||— ||6,235 ||(1,307)|
|€||69,914 ||€||(12,270)||€||34,637 |
Note: We have reclassified certain amounts related to our prior period results to conform to our current period presentation.
Item 6: Directors, senior management and employees
A. Directors and senior management
Senior management and supervisory board
The following tables present information about our senior management and our supervisory board members including their ages and position as of the date of this annual report. The current business addresses for the members of our management and supervisory boards is c/o trivago N.V., Kesselstraße 5 - 7, 40221 Düsseldorf, Germany.
|Axel Hefer||44||Managing Director for Legal, Marketplace, People and Culture, and Technology (Chief Executive Officer)|
|Matthias Tillmann||38||Managing Director for Finance, Marketing and Product (Chief Financial Officer)|
The following paragraphs set forth biographical information regarding our management board members as well as our chief financial officer.
Axel Hefer currently serves as chief executive officer of the company. He was initially appointed as managing director and chief financial officer of the company in 2016. He also serves as a non-executive director of Spark Networks SE and Patrizia AG as well as chairman of the supervisory board of FC Schalke 04. Prior to joining trivago GmbH, Mr. Hefer was CFO and COO of Home24 AG, an online home furniture and decor company, and managing director of One Equity Partners, the former Private Equity Division of J.P. Morgan Chase. Mr. Hefer holds a diploma in management from Leipzig Graduate School of Management (HHL) and an M.B.A. from INSEAD.
Matthias Tillmann currently serves as chief financial officer of the company and was initially appointed as managing director in 2020. He joined trivago in 2016 and has held a variety of leadership responsibilities in the finance department. He co-led the team as Senior Vice President, Head of Corporate Finance and prior to that was Head of Strategy and Investor Relations. Prior to joining trivago, he was a senior investment banker at Deutsche Bank AG. Mr. Tillmann holds a diploma in mathematics and economics from the University of Münster (WWU).
Changes to our management board in 2021
On November 1, 2021, we announced that James Carter would resign from the management board effective December 31, 2021. Mr. Carter continues to act as an advisor to trivago on strategic and technical matters and will transition from his current operational responsibilities in the first half of 2022.
|Name||Age||Year of initial appointment||Expiration of current term|
|Peter M. Kern||54||2016||2022|
Mieke De Schepper*
*On March 1, 2022, Mieke De Schepper was designated as temporary member of our supervisory board, pending her appointment at our general meeting of shareholders scheduled for later in 2022. For more information, see "Changes to our supervisory board" below.
The following is a brief summary of the business experience of our supervisory board members.
Joana Breidenbach is an internet entrepreneur, author and anthropologist. She is a member of the supervisory board of gut.org gAG, co-founder of the donation platform betterplace.org and founder of the think tank betterplace lab. Ms. Breidenbach holds a PhD degree from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich.
Robert J. Dzielak has served as Expedia Group’s Chief Legal Officer and Secretary since March 2018, previously serving as its Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary since April 2012. Mr. Dzielak had previously served as Senior Vice President and acting General Counsel since October 2011. Since joining the Expedia Group as Assistant General Counsel in April 2006 and through his service as Vice President and Associate General Counsel between February 2007 and October 2011, Mr. Dzielak held primary responsibility for the worldwide litigation portfolio of Expedia Group and its brands. Prior to joining Expedia Group, Mr. Dzielak was a partner at the law firm of Preston, Gates and Ellis, LLP (now K&L Gates LLP), where his practice focused on commercial and intellectual property litigation. Mr. Dzielak received his J.D. from The John Marshall Law School.
Eric M. Hart has served as the Chief Financial Officer of Expedia Group since April 2020, overseeing Expedia Group’s accounting, financial reporting and analysis, investor relations, treasury, internal audit, tax, and real estate teams. Mr. Hart had served as acting Chief Financial Officer since the departure of the former Chief Financial Officer in December of 2019. Mr. Hart has also served as Expedia Group’s Chief Strategy Officer since November 1, 2019 with responsibility for Expedia Group's strategy and business development, as well as global M&A and investments. Prior to assuming the Chief Strategy Officer position, Mr. Hart served as the General Manager of Expedia Group’s CarRentals.com brand for nearly three years. Prior to that, he oversaw corporate strategy for the Expedia Group, leading some of Expedia Group’s largest acquisitions. Before joining Expedia Group, Mr. Hart spent time as a Vice President at Lake Capital, as a Project Leader at Boston Consulting Group, and as a Consultant at Accenture. Mr. Hart holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Peter M. Kern has been a director of Expedia Group since completion of the IAC/Expedia Group spin-off, has served as Vice Chairman of Expedia Group since June 2018, and has served as Chief Executive Officer of Expedia Group since April 2020. Mr. Kern served on the board of directors of Tribune Media Company from October 2016 through the completion of Tribune Media’s merger with Nextstar Media Group, Inc. in September 2019, and served as Tribune Media’s Chief Executive Officer from March 2017 through September 2019. Mr. Kern is a Managing Partner of InterMedia Partners VII, LP, a private equity firm. Prior to joining InterMedia, Mr. Kern was Senior Managing Director and Principal of Alpine Capital LLC. Prior to Alpine Capital, Mr. Kern founded Gemini Associates in 1996 and served as President from its inception through its merger with Alpine Capital in 2001. Prior to founding Gemini Associates, Mr. Kern
was at the Home Shopping Network and Whittle Communications. In addition to serving as the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of trivago N.V., Mr. Kern also currently serves as Chairman of the board of directors of Hemisphere Media Group, Inc., a publicly-traded Spanish-language media company and on the boards of several private companies. Mr. Kern holds a B.S. degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Hiren Mankodi currently serves as Managing Director for Charlesbank Capital Partners, leading the firm’s technology investing efforts. Previously he was a co-founding partner at Pamplona TMT, a private equity firm focusing on the technology, media and telecom private equity sector. Prior to that, he was a Managing Director at Audax Private Equity where he led the firm’s technology investing efforts. He has over 20 years of private equity and venture capital investing experience, including investments in the enterprise software, infrastructure software, digital media, healthcare IT, technology-enabled services, and industrial technology sectors.
Mieke De Schepper is Executive Vice President, Travel Unit and Managing Director Asia Pacific, Amadeus IT Group. She joined Amadeus in January 2019. Mieke has more than 17 years of experience in managing B2C and B2B businesses. Before Amadeus, Mieke worked for Expedia Group, where she held the role of Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of Egencia, the corporate travel brand of Expedia Group. Earlier, as the Vice President of Expedia Group’s Lodging Partner Solutions, she was responsible for growing and managing the hotel relationships in Asia Pacific. Prior to Expedia Group, she spent 10 years with Phillips Electronics having held various global, regional and local leadership roles in product, marketing and sales. She started her professional career with McKinsey. Mieke holds an MBA from INSEAD and an MSc in Industrial Design Engineering from the Delft University of Technology.
Niklas Östberg is the co-founder of Delivery Hero SE and has served as its Chief Executive Officer since May 2011. He also served as director of the board until its public offering in July 2017. Prior to this, Mr. Östberg was co-founder and chairman of the board of Online Pizza Norden AB from 2008 and May 2011. Mr. Östberg holds a Master's degree from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
Agreements regarding the supervisory board and the management board
Members of our supervisory board and members of our management board have been appointed pursuant to the terms of Amended and Restated Shareholders’ Agreement. See “Item 6: Directors, senior management and employees - C. Board practices” and “ Item 7: Major shareholders and related party transactions - B. Related party transactions”.
Changes to our supervisory board
•On February 25, 2021, Ariane Gorin resigned from our supervisory board and compensation committee.
•On June 30, 2021, Rolf Schrömgens, did not stand for reelection as a member of our supervisory board at our annual general meeting of shareholders.
•On June 30, 2021, the Supervisory Board appointed Joana Breidenbach, Robert Dzielak and Eric Hart to the Supervisory Board, with terms expiring at our annual general meeting to be held in 2024.
•Prior to his formal appointment Eric Hart was designated on February 25, 2021, as temporary member of our supervisory board. On June 30, 2021, the Supervisory Board appointed Eric Hart to the Supervisory Board, with a term expiring at our annual general meeting to be held in 2024.
•On March 1, 2022, Frédéric Mazzella resigned from our supervisory board and audit committee. On the same date, the supervisory board designated Mieke De Schepper as temporary member of our supervisory board, pending her appointment at our general meeting of shareholders scheduled for later in 2022, and appointed her to our audit committee. Upon her designation as
temporary member of the supervisory board, Ms. De Schepper has all powers and responsibilities of a supervisory board member, as if she had been appointed at the general meeting of shareholders.
Board Diversity Disclosure
The following information was provided by the members of our supervisory board members on a voluntary basis.
Board Diversity Matrix (As of date of March 4, 2022)
|Country of Principal Executive Offices||Germany|
|Foreign Private Issuer||Yes|
|Disclosure Prohibited Under Home Country Law||No|
|Total Number of Directors||7|
|Did not disclose|
Part I: Gender Identity
Part II: Demographic Background
|Underrepresented Individual in Home Country||2|
|Did Not Disclose Demographic Background||1|
Compensation of members of our management board and supervisory board
The amount of compensation, including benefits in kind, accrued or paid to our management board members with respect to their service on the management board in the year ended December 31, 2021 is described in the tables below.
Our management board earned the following cash compensation with respect to their service as members of the management board during the fiscal year 2021:
|(€ in thousands)|
|Periodically-paid remuneration (base salary)||€240||€240||€240|
|Total cash compensation||€408||€447||€456|
(*) James Carter resigned from the management board with effect from December 31, 2021.
Our supervisory board conducted an individualized analysis of each member of senior management with reference to alignment with our goals, the business impact of senior management on those goals and the team building capabilities of senior management, and in each case, determined that our management board met the objectives set forth as a condition for the awarding of the respective bonus paid to them. For 2021, the compensation committee approved, subject to supervisory board approval, an all-cash
performance bonus to Messrs. Carter, Hefer, and Tillmann, which amounts are included in the bonuses line in the table above. As of December 31, 2021, we had nothing set aside or accrued to provide pension, retirement or similar benefits to our management board members.
In 2021, Mr. Tillmann exercised options at a strike price of €0.06 to receive 110,000 ADSs that were subsequently sold pursuant to a trading plan established pursuant to Rule 10b5-1 of the Exchange Act. In 2021 Mr. Carter acquired 304,633 ADSs from the vesting of his restricted units that were subsequently sold pursuant to a trading plan established pursuant to Rule 10b5-1 of the Exchange Act. In 2021 Mr. Hefer exercised options at a strike price of €0.06 to receive 350,000 ADSs that were subsequently sold pursuant to a trading plan established pursuant to Rule 10b5-1 of the Exchange Act.
Our management board held the following options (both vested and unvested) as of December 31, 2021:
|Beneficiary||Grant date||Vesting date|
Number of options outstanding(1)
|Carter||Jul. 18, 2019|
Three Year Vest(7)
Mar. 11, 2020(4)
Three Year Vest(4)
|Mar. 11, 2020|
Three Year Vest(8)
|Mar. 2, 2021|
Three Year Vest(10)
|Hefer||Sept. 23, 2016||May 1, 2017, 2018, 2019||45,830||€0.12||None|
|Sept. 23, 2016||May 1, 2017, 2018, 2019||153,192||€11.75||None|
|Mar. 6, 2017||Jan. 3, 2018, 2019, 2020||600,000||$12.14||Mar. 6, 2024|
|Mar. 6, 2017||Jan. 2, 2019, 2020, 2021||224,000||$7.17||Mar. 6, 2024|
|Dec. 20, 2017||Jan. 2, 2019, 2020, 2021||1,276,000||$7.17||Dec. 20, 2024|
|Dec. 20, 2017||Jul. 2, 2020, Jan. 2, 2023||1,500,000||$7.17||Dec. 20, 2024|
|Jun. 28, 2019|
Three Year Vest(3)
|767,606||€0.06||Jun. 28, 2026|
Mar. 11, 2020(4)
Three Year Vest(4)
|775,347||€0.06||Mar. 11, 2027|
Mar. 11, 2020(5)
|Jan. 2, 2023||1,500,358||€0.06||Mar. 11, 2027|
|Mar. 11, 2020|
Three Year Vest(8)
|863,601||€0.06||Mar. 11, 2027|
|Mar. 2, 2021|
Three Year Vest(9)
|698,376||€0.06||Mar. 2, 2028|
|Mar. 2, 2021|
Three Year Vest(10)
|917,372||€0.06||Mar. 2, 2028|
|Tillmann||Mar. 6, 2017||Jan. 3, 2018, 2019, 2020||40,000||$12.14|