UPDATE 1-RESEARCH ALERT-ThinkEquity raises Priceline.com to buy

Wed Dec 22, 2010 6:59am EST

* Upgrades on strong travel demand in Q4

* Says Priceline to continue int'l market-share gains

* Ups target price to $530 from $450

Dec 22 (Reuters) - ThinkEquity upgraded Priceline.com Inc (PCLN.O) to "buy" from "hold" on continued strength in the travel industry, saying it expects the online travel agency to continue international share gains.

The brokerage raised Priceline shares price target to $530 from $450, seeing strong fourth-quarter travel demand, especially in Europe.

Priceline -- which competes with Expedia (EXPE.O) and Orbitz Worldwide (OWW.N) -- provides travel services, including hotel rooms, car rentals, airline tickets, vacation packages, cruises and destination services.

The Norwalk, Connecticut-based company remains well-positioned for continued international market share gains, given its supplier-friendly hotel models and attractive consumer offerings, the brokerage wrote in a note to clients.

Priceline's international business -- generated mostly by its Booking.com -- made up 69 percent of its gross bookings for the six months ended September 30.

ThinkEquity sees the segment up about 40 percent in 2011.

Priceline shares, which have more than doubled over the last six months, closed at $407 on Tuesday on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)