* Priceline net profit $4.41/shr
* Ex-items profit $5.37/shr vs $5.05 est
* Shares rally 6.3 pct to $629
Feb 27 (Reuters) - Online travel agency Priceline.com on Monday reported a stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter profit as the value of its bookings gained more than 50 percent from a year ago, sending its shares up more than 6 percent.
The company, which is best known for its name-your-own-price auction, said its fourth-quarter net profit was $226 million, or $4.41 per share, compared with $136 million, or $2.66 per share, a year ago.
“It’s really still the international hotel business that’s driving the earnings to the greatest degree,” Priceline Chief Executive Jeffery Boyd told Reuters.
He said the company is seeing strong growth in the hotel business in Asia and newer markets.
Excluding one-time items, Priceline reported a profit of $5.37 per share, beating a consensus forecast of $5.05 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company reported revenue of $991 million, up 35.5 percent from a year ago beating a Wall Street forecast for $967.9 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The value of bookings at Priceline was $4.96 billion, up 51.8 percent from a year ago.
Priceline, which runs Booking.com, Agoda.com and TravelJigsaw in addition to its namesake website, said it expected future growth rates to decline, partly because of weak economic conditions in Europe and increasing cancellation rates there.
The company said it expects first-quarter bookings to increase by 33 percent to 38 percent. Priceline expects revenue to increase by 22 percent to 27 percent in the quarter, driving income between $3.80 and $3.90 per share.
Shares of Priceline rose 6.3 percent to $629 in after hours trading after closing at $591.54.