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Too slow, Wall Street.
Analysts misread Ctrip.com's (Nasdaq: CTRP ) quarterly performance again. China's leading online travel website posted second-quarter net revenue gains of 30% to $54.7 million. Earnings grew even faster, at 35%, to hit $0.25 a share.
Wall Street's bean counters were looking for Ctrip to earn just $0.20 a share on $53.8 million in net revenue. It's a familiar place for the pros, because they have underestimated the company's profits in each of the past six quarters.
Ctrip's strength came from a 44% spike in air-ticketing revenue, helping pick up the mere 14% advance in hotel reservations revenue.
If there was one dark cloud in Wednesday night's report, it's that Ctrip is looking for just a 15% to 20% increase in net revenue during the current quarter, shy of Wall Street's targets. Then again, this almost seems like a game where Ctrip is once again low-balling its prospects to see how many of the Manhattan suits it can ensnare in its trap.
Even if you chuckle at Ctrip's deflated outlook, it does seem as if revenue growth will decelerate during the third quarter. If that's a surprise to those who figured that travel sites like Ctrip and smaller rival eLong (Nasdaq: LONG ) would be flying high during the Olympic Games, you probably don't understand their target audiences. The Olympics are mostly an international affair, whereas Ctrip caters to Chinese travelers.
This doesn't mean that the success of the Olympics is immaterial to Ctrip. Anything that improves China's economy and puts more money into the pockets of its 1.3 billion citizens will find a way to trickle down to leisure companies like Ctrip or hospitality chain Home Inns & Hotels (Nasdaq: HMIN ) .
This doesn't excuse Ctrip if it really means it this time. The stock trades at a premium to stateside rivals because of its growth stock pizzazz. How will things shape up in three months if Ctrip grows by no better than 20%, and priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN ) delivers on its guidance for a 30% to 35% increase in the top line? Analysts expect more modest year-over-year revenue gains at companies like Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW ) and Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE ) , but Ctrip doesn't want to necessarily run with that crowd.
So keep swinging for the fences, Ctrip, but let's hope that the lackluster near-term guidance is mere batting practice.