Priceline (NASDAQ:BKNG) reported fairly strong earnings for the second quarter of 2014 on Monday. Let's go through the company's earnings conference call to highlight a few important quotes from Priceline's management team and their implications for investors.
1. Priceline's Booking.com platform is stronger than ever
Booking.com's platform now has over 525,000 hotels and other accommodations in 205 countries, up 58% over last year, reflecting Booking.com's continued aggressive push to extend its lead as the world's largest brand for booking accommodations.
Booking.com is a major driver for Priceline, as it provides a leading market position in the profitable European hotel market. The fact that Booking.com is growing its hotel count at such an impressive speed shows that Priceline provides a convenient alternative for hotels to increase sales and join the online revolution via a proven and successful platform.
In addition, a growing hotel count means more options and better deals for travelers.
2. The company is gaining market share across the board
We believe the healthy balance we have between a strong direct business and first-time customers acquired online are critical to sustained and profitable growth and are helping us increase market share in every market we operate in.
Online travel is a remarkably exciting business, providing plenty of opportunities for growth. By outgrowing the competition, Priceline continues consolidating its position as the growth leader in the industry, and this bodes remarkably well for investors in the years ahead.
3. Advertising spending is on the rise
We estimate that the group will spend roughly $130 million for offline advertising over the back half of the year, with more than half the spend coming in the third quarter, which puts us near the high end of the full-year range we previously provided.
Both Priceline and its main competitor, Expedia, have increased their spending on advertising in recent quarters, and it looks as if investors should expect sustained spending in that area.
Although Priceline has more than enough financial resources to invest in marketing and advertising, this could have a negative impact on profit margins over the coming quarters, so it's a risk worth watching.
4. Priceline's broadened partnership with Ctrip (NASDAQ:TCOM) looks promising
By getting closer together, both we and Ctrip see ways that we can offer our customers the absolute best choice of accommodations and experiences. This collaboration will bring more guests to China, and more Chinese to the rest of the world, in the coming months, quarters and years.
Priceline has recently expanded its partnership with Chinese online travel platform Ctrip.com. Priceline has invested $500 million via convertible bonds in Ctrip, and the company was also granted authorization to purchase common stock in the Chinese business, so that Priceline may hold up to 10% of Ctrip when including both convertible bonds and common shares.
Priceline and Ctrip are also broadening their commercial agreement, first struck in 2012, to offer more hotel inventory and other services to each other's customers.
China is clearly an exciting growth market, offering tremendous opportunities for expansion in the long term. By partnering with a well-established local player such as Ctrip, Priceline is strengthening its presence in a key market while generating plenty of opportunities for cross-promotion and cross-selling.
5. Priceline is accelerating the rollout of Pay With OpenTable
Priceline isn't wasting any time after the recent acquisition of online restaurant reservation platform OpenTable. The company is accelerating the rollout of its digital payments application Pay With OpenTable:
Today, we are announcing that Pay With OpenTable is now launching in New York. We are also confirming our plans to roll it out to 20 other cities across the U.S. before year-end. Early results show that everyone wins with Pay With OpenTable. The restaurant gets faster table turns, the servers get better tips, and the guests leave far more satisfied.
Management seems quite enthusiastic about the initial response from both customers and restaurants, and this is another area showing that Priceline is a remarkably vibrant business when it comes to innovation and growth opportunities.