Pcln Swimmer
Source: Priceline.

When it comes to Internet turnaround stories, it's hard to find a better example than Priceline Group (NASDAQ:PCLN), which came back from the brink in early 2000s to create what has become the dominant Internet travel portal in the business. Even as rivals Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) and Orbitz (NYSE:OWW) have attempted to carve out lucrative niches in the travel world, Priceline has taken advantage of its global reach to cash in on the economic recovery. With third-quarter earnings due out Tuesday morning, long-term investors want to know whether Priceline can sustain the pace of its growth and keep momentum traders satisfied with its progress.

Pcln Shatner

Source: Priceline.

Priceline has come a long way since the days when William Shatner was its primary claim to fame. The company has gone on an aggressive acquisition spree over the years, with pickups including multibooking site Kayak and online restaurant reservation company OpenTable. Even after becoming the name to beat in online travel, Priceline has an opportunity to milk more from its other businesses as it integrates itself into a more cohesive unit. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Priceline over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its report.

Stats on Priceline Group

Analyst EPS Estimate

$21.11

Change From Year-Ago EPS

22%

Revenue Estimate

$2.83 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

25%

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

4

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Priceline keep raising the earnings bar?
In recent months, investors have had mixed views on Priceline's future earnings, cutting their third-quarter estimate by a dime per share but boosting their views slightly for 2015. The stock has held its own even in a tough quarter, bouncing back from a dip to lose just 1% since late July.

Priceline's second-quarter results in August showed just how well the company has done at beating back Expedia and its other rivals. Sales climbed 26% on a 34% jump in gross travel bookings, and expanded margins sent adjusted earnings per share well above what most investors had expected. Priceline concerned some investors with third-quarter earnings guidance that came in below consensus figures, but shareholders have largely discounted that pessimism as part of the company's historical trend of setting the bar low and then exceeding reduced expectations.

Despite its consistent performance, Priceline still inspires skepticism among some investors, and that has kept its valuation in check. Even with high expectations for growth, Priceline shares fetch just 19 times forward earnings estimates for 2015. That's actually comparable to the forward-based valuations at which both Orbitz and Expedia shares trade, yet most investors still expect Priceline to remain the better pick in terms of future growth potential.

Pcln Hammock
Source: Priceline.

Perhaps the most important sign of Priceline's ongoing success, though, will be the degree to which it can make the most of its acquisitions and collaborations. On one hand, an expanded partnership with Ctrip.com (NASDAQ:CTRP) in China could help Priceline establish an even stronger foothold in the nation and its burgeoning travel market. At the same time, Priceline's acquisition of OpenTable should allow it to broaden its entertainment options, offering a fully integrated travel experience that includes not just where to stay and how to get there, but also what to do once you've arrived. In addition, it gives Priceline a way to get into the digital-payments space, which could add yet another element to the company's strength.

In the Priceline earnings report, keep your eyes on how well each of the company's business units perform. With economic strength in the U.S. counterbalanced to some extent by weakness in Europe, investors could draw insight not only on Priceline's own business, but also global business conditions. Moreover, if it can keep outpacing Expedia, then Priceline could finally earn the premium earnings multiple that many believe it already deserves.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Ctrip.com International and Priceline Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of Priceline Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.