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Shares of priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN ) are trading at split-adjusted levels last seen before the dot-com bubble burst, after the travel portal came through with yet another analyst-numbing quarter.
Third-quarter revenue increased 37% to $1.0 billion, as strength in international bookings, hotel stays, and car rentals helped offset a 5% decline in airline ticketing.
Adjusted earnings grew even faster, soaring 57% to $5.33 a share. Analysts were only expecting a pro forma profit of $4.97 a share on $973.6 million in revenue. This happens a lot, as Priceline has blown past Mr. Market's guesstimates for 18 quarters in a row.
In other words, the market's cheering Priceline's report and hearty near-term guidance, but it's a safe bet that the dot-com darling will once again surpass its own public targets.
When will Wall Street learn?
Shareholders don't mind, since they're the ones laughing all the way to the bank.
Shares of Priceline have soared 78% this year, and that's not including today's ascent. Rival Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW ) has actually lost ground while travel giant Expedia's (Nasdaq: EXPE ) 9% spurt hasn't kept pace with Nasdaq's run.
The only travel-related website that has bragging rights over Priceline would be deals publisher Travelzoo (Nasdaq: TZOO ) , whose stock has nearly tripled in 2010.
There are certainly plenty of exotic travel plays overseas. Ctrip.com (Nasdaq: CTRP ) is China's leading portal. India leader MakeMyTrip (Nasdaq: MMYT ) went public this summer. Why fly international, though? Your portfolio can do just fine with Priceline. It holds up well when compared to the growth of Ctrip and MakeMyTrip, yet it's a relative bargain at roughly 25 times next year's earnings (a multiple that will continue to head lower as analysts jack up their profit targets).
If you don't get the point, stick around. We'll probably replay this scene again in another three months.
What's your favorite online travel play? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.