Why Orbitz Shares Tumbled

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW  ) were losing altitude today, falling by as much as 24% after the company released third-quarter earnings this morning.

So what: The always-volatile online travel merchant said earnings per share fell to $0.11 from $0.14 a year ago, missing estimates of $0.13 as SG&A and marketing costs increased. Revenue jumped 11% in the quarter to $220.9 million, matching expectations, but investors were turned off by lower full-year revenue guidance. The company now expects just $840 million in sales versus the consensus of $849 million. There were some bright spots for Orbitz. While air-ticketing revenue fell 4%, the hotel side of the business improved as room nights booked grew 22% and sales from hotel and vacation packages jumped 50%. Stand-alone hotel sales are now the company's No. 1 segment.

Now what: Orbitz shares have fluctuated from $2.08 to $13.26, so it's probably not worth losing sleep over today's double-digit drop. Investors should be more concerned that the company does little to differentiate itself from competitors such as Expedia or priceline.com, making it a bit player in what's largely a commodity industry. Orbitz's increased investments in hotels may pay off, but it's hard to see how the company can find a way to separate from the herd.

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