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Why Shares of Orbitz Worldwide, Inc. Skyrocketed

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 taking off today, gaining as much as 32% after the company turned in a better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings report.

So what: The travel-accommodations website delivered per-share earnings of $0.05, better than estimates of breakeven, while revenues increased 4.1% to $197.4 million, also beating the consensus at $191.2 million. Sales in the quarter were boosted by its hotel division, which grew 18%, while airline ticket sales fell 11%. Orbitz and its competitors have been increasingly turning to hotel reservations to drive bottom-line growth as they're more profitable than airline tickets. The fourth quarter also tends to be a seasonally slow one for Orbitz, so investors seemed happy that the travel service was able to squeeze out a profit. CEO Barney Harford said he expected "strong growth" in 2014 and beyond.

Now what: Despite Harford's optimism, Orbitz's first-quarter guidance was actually off the mark at $202 million to $207 million against analyst estimates of $207 million. For the year, the company expects revenue growth in the low-to-mid single digits, in line with estimates of a 3.7% increase. Orbitz has been an especially volatile stock lately, having tripled in the past year but still off nearly 30% from its high this summer. The travel bookings industry is extremely competitive, and Orbitz seems to be stuck in the middle of the pack with slow top-line growth and slim profits. Even with today's bounce, I wouldn't expect shares to see that $12.62 high anytime soon. 

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Jeremy Bowman

Fool since 2011. I write about consumer goods, the big picture, and whatever else piques my interest. Follow me on Twitter to see my latest articles, and for commentary on hot topics in retail and the broad market.

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