Priceline's Stock Takes Off, Fueled by Rosy Outlook

Priceline’s stock took flight today in after-hours trading, jumping $19, or 4.5 percent, to $445 a share, following the release of its fourth-quarter earnings.

Wall Street’s generous run-up can be traced to two drivers: The company’s quarterly profits increased 73 percent year-over-year, and its rosy forecast exceeded analysts’ expectations.

But despite the gains today, Priceline’s stock is trading slightly lower than last week, when it hit a five-year high of roughly $460 a share.

The e-commerce site, which is the largest online travel agency by market value, reported fourth-quarter net income of $135.7 million, compared to $78.4 million in the same period a year ago. Revenues totaled $731 million, increasing 35 percent over a year ago.

Quarterly revenues were boosted by strong international operations, which contributed $374.9 million, increasing 68 percent over the same period a year earlier.

Priceline’s outlook is also positive.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based company expects first-quarter net income, excluding some items, of between $2.34 and $2.44 a share. Analysts on average predicted earnings per share of $2.30, according to a Bloomberg survey. Sales are also expected to grow at least 29 percent to $753.9 million, exceeding estimates of $731.9 million.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work