It was a great week for the overseas travel portals trading on stateside exchanges.
Ctrip is China's leading travel website operator, and eLong is a fast-growing rival. MakeMyTrip is India's top dog.
Ctrip's rally was kicked off by a pair of favorable analyst moves as Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse waxed favorably on the dot-com speedster.
Deutsche Bank's Vivian Hao is boosting her rating from hold to buy, encouraged by Ctrip's improving bookings. There has been particular strength on the higher-margin hotel side with mobile hotel bookings up 40% last month. She dramatically jacked up her price target on Ctrip from the brutally obsolete $35.20 to $65.
Credit Suisse analysts followed by initiating coverage on Ctrip with a bullish rating and a $60 price target, eyeing 22% annualized growth through 2023. That's a pretty bold long-term outlook for a company that only grew its revenue at a 19% clip last year, but Wall Street was already expecting healthier growth in the next couple of years.
Credit Suisse is encouraged by the competitive landscape; eLong has not expanded its hotel coupon program and Baidu's (NASDAQ: BIDU ) majority-owned Qunar has decided to team up with Ctrip as a marketing partner instead of a direct competitor.
Baidu shares didn't rally as strongly as Ctrip and eLong. Online travel remains a very small part of the revenue mix for the China's leading search engine. However, Baidu's stock still rose a hearty 5% on the week as the market warmed up to Chinese growth stocks in general. Baidu hit a fresh 52-week high on Friday. It could move even higher if Bloomberg reports earlier this month indicating that Qunar is ready to go public turn out to be true.
Naturally, a potential Qunar IPO could also help improve the visibility of Ctrip, eLong, and MakeMyTrip if it's a hit, drawing increased investor attention to the industry.
Out in India, MakeMyTrip didn't have any major analyst offering upgrades or initiating coverage, but it's clearly one of the market's more depressed online travel portals.
A lot of that is on India. The rupee's been taking a hit. The world's second most populous nation hasn't seen the same kind of booming economy as China. The government has committed to improving online connectivity throughout India, but the migration rate is too slow and the online usage base too low to get investors excited about the few publicly traded Internet companies that are pure plays on India's economy.
However, if the market is cheering Chinese travel website darling Ctrip, it's only naturally to see some of that rub off on India's leading player. The growth may not be there at the moment, but it doesn't take much to move the thinly traded forgotten company that was once a blazing hot IPO.
International travel is back as prospects for the global economy improve. It's only natural for Ctrip, eLong, and MakeMyTrip to benefit from the upbeat sentiment.
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