What: Like much of the market, shares of Priceline Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:BKNG) were thrown off track today, finishing down 11.4% on fears of the Brexit. Much of the travel industry was falling today because it's highly correlated with the overall economy; but Priceline was getting particularly hammered due to its exposure to Europe.
So what: Thanks to its ownership of Booking.com, the most-popular hotel-reservation site in Europe, Priceline made 85% of its revenue from international markets last year. The bulk of this came from Europe, as Booking.com has been a key growth driver in recent years.
As investors digest last night's Brexit vote, a broad range of factors is pushing stocks down. The markets are worried that it could create a domino effect, leading other countries to leave the EU. Or it could also spark a recession in the UK or on the continent, as Europeans deal with greater uncertainty. The effect of the UK's separation from the EU on Priceline is likely minimal, but any economic malaise caused by the decision could dampen the travel industry, and pressure Priceline's performance. A weaker pound and euro would also weigh on Priceline's results, as it reports its profits in dollars.
Now what: Priceline has proven itself to be more resilient to economic volatility than the market might think. Through the financial crisis and subsequent European recession, revenue grew by at least 15% every quarter, and it only fell below that mark because of the effects of the stronger dollar last year.
Unlike the airline industry, whose performance depends on factors outside of its control like consumer demand and fuel prices, Priceline has been able to put up fat operating margins. This is due to its agency model, which lets it act like an intermediary between hoteliers and consumers. This should ensure the company remains profitable even if the economy goes south. A down market and a sell-off in travel stocks could also present Priceline with acquisition opportunities, as the company has grown primarily through buyouts during the years.
At this point, it's simply too soon to know what will happen to Priceline and the travel industry because of the Brexit. But investors should rest assured that Priceline has prospered through macroeconomic woes before, and its business model should continue delivering profits, even in the face of political and economic turmoil. Considering that, today's sharp sell-off seems premature.