Prepare to Be Disappointed, Expedia Investors

Did an unseasonably warm January take a toll on travel portal Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE  ) ? We'll know more when the company issues its first-quarter outlook tomorrow morning. Here's a closer look at what analysts expect from the Q4 report:

Metric Q4 2011 (est.) Q4 2010 Estimated Growth
Revenue $812.7 million $808.4 million 0.5%
Earning Per Share $0.54 $0.58 (6.9%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Think these numbers are bad? History says this is the very best performance investors can hope for. Expedia has come at least $0.14 short of profit estimates in each of the past four quarters, while priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN  ) has beaten estimates by at least $0.20 a share over the same period. Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW  ) has topped projections in three of the past four quarters.

3 more things to watch
Of course, we're about more than just numbers here at The Motley Fool. As business-focused investors we're also interested in strategy and company initiatives. Here are three things I'm particularly hoping to hear more about:

  • The Big, Bad G. Expedia depends on travelers seeking and using its website to find the best deals. That may be harder to do soon, because Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is listing its own results for travel searches above those of portals such as Expedia. How will management respond?  What initiatives are in place to blunt Google's impact?
  • Expedia, disrupted? Major hotel chains are hoping to steal business from Expedia and its peers by creating their own portal for room searches called RoomKey.com. How will the company market itself to keep travelers hooked into its database?
  • The trip is over.  In December, Expedia completed its spin-off of the TripAdvisor (Nasdaq: TRIP  ) research site. Unleashing the unit's assets has undoubtedly unlocked value for those who received shares. But what's left for the parent company? What does Expedia do now to differentiate itself?

Those are my questions. Now it's your turn to weigh in. What do you expect to hear from Expedia tomorrow? Would you throw this stock away? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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Add Expedia to My Watchlist for up-to-the-minute Foolish coverage of the stock and your entire portfolio.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and TripAdvisor. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and priceline.com. 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.


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