What is the biggest technology company in Europe?
It’s a debate that’s been raging on for years and now an unlikely candidate has stepped into the ring to try and claim the title: Booking.com.
Gillian Tans, chair of Booking.com, told Sifted that the travel search engine is arguably the largest tech firm on the continent.
Booking Holdings, parent company of Booking.com, has a market cap of $85bn (€77bn), Tans said proudly at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon. Asked if she thinks Booking.com is the biggest tech firm in Europe Tans replied: "Yes. Oh, for sure."
Founded in 1996, the travel booking platform, which employs 17,500 people in 70 countries, has a bigger market cap than Stockholm’s Spotify ($26bn; €24bn), Amsterdam’s Adyen (€19bn), and London’s JustEat (£5bn; €6bn).
"Booking.com is probably one of Europe’s biggest success stories," says Tans, adding that people may not realise this because Booking.com has been "humble" and "very Dutch".
There’s also the small issue of whether Booking.com is a "travel" company or a "tech" company, but given Airbnb is widely referred to as a tech company it only seems fair to put Booking.com in the same category.
"Airbnb is so much smaller," Tans says. "Booking.com is one of the most global companies out there."
Other European tech giants
Is Tans right about Booking.com being the biggest tech company in Europe? Well, there are actually several European tech firms with a bigger market cap than Booking Holdings, depending on how you define a tech company.
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Booking.com might be bigger than people realise but there are bigger fish in Europe. German software giant SAP is valued at €151bn and ASML, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, is worth €103bn.
Prosus — the international listing of South Africa's Naspers — arguably became the largest consumer internet company in Europe earlier this year when it listed on Euronext Amsterdam with a €95bn valuation. Much of that valuation related to its stake in Chinese tech giant Tencent, however.
Europe has more multibillion tech firms than ever but the continent still lags way behind the US and China and the 10 most valuable tech firms worldwide are all outside Europe. European investors and policymakers have been longing for a homegrown Google, Apple, or Alibaba, but the continent is still some way off producing one.
However, Europe's unicorn companies are now growing faster than US unicorn companies, so perhaps it's only a matter of time?