UPDATE 2-Priceline profit tops estimates, shares jump

Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:35pm EST

* Adjusted EPS of $6.77 compares with estimate of $6.54

* Bookings, revenue seen rising in current quarter

Feb 26 (Reuters) - Priceline.com, the online travel agency known for its name-your-own-price auction, on Tuesday topped analysts' estimates for quarterly profit, citing improved hotel and car-rental reservations, and its shares rose more than 3 percent in extended trading.

Gross bookings, or the dollar value of all travel services purchased, rose 32.9 percent to $6.6 billion in the fourth quarter. Priceline said it expected those bookings to rise 30 percent to 37 percent in the current first quarter from a year earlier.

Priceline, which owes much of its success to international bookings on its Booking.com European travel site, forecast profit excluding items of $4.90 to $5.30 a share for the first quarter on a revenue increase of 17 percent to 24 percent. Analysts, on average, have forecast profit of $5.14 per share for the current quarter.

In the fourth quarter, hotel room-night reservations and booked rental-car days rose about 38 percent and 37 percent, respectively, compared with a 1.7 percent rise in airline tickets booked. Priceline said newer markets such as Asia-Pacific were contributing more to growth.

The quarterly results showed "very strong execution across international markets and in the domestic U.S. market," said Morningstar analyst Dan Su. "The foreign currency headwind that the company experienced in the past several quarters was not really a major negative impact."

The company, which competes with Expedia Inc and Orbitz Worldwide, said fourth-quarter net income was $288.7 million, or $5.63 per share, compared with $225.7 million, or $4.41 per share, a year earlier.

On a non-GAAP basis, profit was $6.77 per share. Analysts, on average, had expected $6.54 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Quarterly revenue rose 20 percent to $1.19 billion.

Shares of Priceline.com rose 3 percent from their Nasdaq close of $678.49 after the company announced its financial results.

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