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Priceline is buying online restaurant reservation company OpenTable for $2.6 billion. The deal should help Priceline, the online travel company, branch out into a new business segment.

NEW YORK -- Priceline has negotiated a $2.6 billion entree into the restaurant business.

The global travel booking king announced Friday it is acquiring the OpenTable Inc. in a deal that would put Priceline into a new business doing for restaurant reservations much what it does for hotel bookings.

The deal should give Priceline a new way to cater to its increasingly mobile-savvy customers, while parlaying Priceline’s global reach to expand OpenTable to other countries.

"Travelers are diners," Priceline Group CEO and President Darren Huston said on a conference call. "It’s the same customers. There’s opportunity to cross-promote brands."

In a statement, OpenTable CEO Matt Roberts cited Priceline’s expertise in online marketing globally on all types of devices.

"They have an exceptional track record of customer service in dozens of languages around the world," Roberts said.

Priceline, based in Norwalk, Conn. will pay $103 per share, which is a 46 percent premium to OpenTable Inc.’s Thursday closing price of $70.43.

Shares of OpenTable soared 33.05, or nearly 47 percent to $103.46 in midday trading Friday. Priceline shares fell $22.16, or 1.8 percent, to $1,203.84.

Priceline, which generated sales of $6.8 billion last year, has made a series of acquisitions over the last decade, most recently last year’s purchase of