Priceline Is More Exotic Than You Think

If you want to truly enjoy priceline.com's (Nasdaq: PCLN  ) blowout quarter last night, bring a passport.

It's easier to view the popular travel portal as a global juggernaut, especially now that just 23% of its bookings are originating domestically.

Priceline's second quarter was great. Revenue climbed 44% to $1.1 billion, and adjusted earnings soared 79% to $282.6 million -- or $5.49 a share. Analysts were banking on a tweaked profit of only $4.87 a share.

You won't find stateside-centric portals growing that quickly -- and rightfully so. Priceline's domestic gross bookings only grew by 13%, as international bookings nearly doubled. Gross total bookings soared 70% to $5.8 billion, but again, this is basically a matter of Priceline's more conventional portals abroad attracting travelers.

We're not talking about strength across all categories. The number of hotel room nights booked rose by 56%, and rental car days climbed 55% higher, but Priceline issued just 7% more airline tickets than it did during last year's second quarter.

Don't let the plane bookings find you scrambling for an airsickness bag. Airlines have just gotten better at selling seats directly to passengers. This is actually Priceline's best year-over-year showing in air ticketing since the end of 2009.

It's certainly true that most stateside portals do their fair share of international bookings. Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE  ) owns a big chunk of eLong (Nasdaq: LONG  ) , and there's a reason why Orbtiz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW  ) has "Worldwide" in its moniker. However, investors should begin valuing Priceline closer to India's MakeMyTrip (Nasdaq: MMYT  ) and China's Ctrip.com (Nasdaq: CTRP  ) . 

Then again, maybe even those speedsters aren't cool enough to hang with Priceline anymore. Did you see Ctrip's latest quarter? Revenue grew by a mere 20%, and earnings growth didn't even keep up with that. MakeMyTrip reports next week.

Yes, Priceline is priced at a rich market premium -- but it's worth it.

Fresh guidance is calling for adjusted earnings of $9.10 a share to $9.30 a share during the potent summer quarter on 37% to 42% top-line growth. Analysts were only targeting $7.94 a share in profitability on a 36% revenue spurt.

Yes, Priceline is shaping up to be a better online travel story than even the overseas darlings.

What's your favorite online travel play? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Ctrip.com International. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of priceline.com and Ctrip.com International. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.  

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been leaning on travel portals since the 1990s, but often just books directly. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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