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Priceline.com Profit Soars; Stock Up


Online travel services provider Priceline.com Inc. (PCLN), said Monday its fourth quarter earnings jumped from last year, boosted by strong growth in international operations. The company's earnings as well as revenue for the quarter topped Street estimates.

Moving ahead, Priceline.com detailed robust earnings outlook for the first quarter 2012, sending its shares up by 5.5 percent in extended trade on the Nasdaq.

CEO Jeffery Boyd said the company's hotel business is making sustained gains, marked by growth in Asia and newer markets, even as macroeconomic concerns lurk. Sequentially, growth rate is expected to be subdued, given the company's scale of operations and the European crisis, Boyd added.

During the fourth quarter, the company's revenue grew 35.5 percent from last year, helped mainly by revenue from international operations that surged 62.7 percent. Total gross travel bookings spiked 51.8 percent from last year.

Priceline registered strong growth in travel reservation services, with room night reservations up 53 percent. Airline ticket sales were up 5.6, and rental car days grew 34.3 percent, year-over-year.

The company's net income to common shares for the fourth quarter jumped to $225.7 million or $4.41 per share from $135.7 million or $2.66 per share last year.

Excluding items, adjusted earnings was $276.8 million or $5.37 per share, compared to $175 million or $3.40 per share a year ago.

On average, 22 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of $5.05 per share for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

The Norwalk, Connecticut-based company's revenue rose to $990.8 million from $731.3 million last year. Nineteen analysts had a consensus revenue estimate of $967.91 million for the quarter

The company expects first-quarter earnings in the range of $3.10 to $3.20 per share, with adjusted earnings of $3.80 to $3.90 per share. Revenue for the first quarter is expected to grow to 22 to 27 percent.

Analysts currently expect earnings of $3.72 per share and revenue of $1.01 billion.

The company expects first quarter total gross travel bookings to grow 33 to 38 percent.

Earlier this month, rival Expedia Inc. (EXPE), the world's largest online travel company, reported a slight drop in fourth quarter profit as higher costs offset a 7 percent rise in revenue. The company's earnings topped analysts' expectations, but revenue fell short.

PCLN closed Monday on the Nasdaq at $591.54, up $1.13 or 0.19%, on a volume of million shares. In after hours, the stock gained $32.86 or 5.56%.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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