Some of last week's highest flyers are the companies working on exactly that. Shares of leading Chinese travel portals Ctrip.com (NASDAQ:CTRP) and Qunar (NASDAQ:QUNR) soared 31% and 29%, respectively. Traveling from the world's most populous nation to the second, India's MakeMyTrip (NASDAQ:MMYT) also came through with a respectable 11% pop.
There are a couple good reasons for the renewed interest in the country-specific agencies that connect travelers to service providers. Ctrip and Qunar posted well-received quarterly results, while an analyst tapped MakeMyTrip as one of India's three best Internet stocks.
Let's star with Ctrip, which was the biggest gainer of the three. The early leader in China's online travel niche posted mixed quarterly results. Net revenue climbed by an encouraging 33% from the prior year, but gross margin continued to contract both year over year and sequentially. Ctrip warned last year that competitive pressure from other hungry operators was squeezing profitability, and that's pretty much how things played out. the company posted a quarterly deficit, held down by sharp upticks in product development and marketing expenses.
Ctrip's stock still moved sharply higher because of its encouraging business outlook. It sees top-line growth this quarter rising by between 40% and 50% when pitted against the prior year's freshman quarter. Analysts were targeting net revenue to grow by less than 35%.
Ctrip rival Qunar posted financial results earlier in the week. Quarterly revenue soared 107% over the prior year's period, but it also drew up its bottom line in red ink. Don't let the heady growth force you into a comparison of the two companies since Qunar is a lot smaller than Ctrip at the moment. Qunar also played up a rosy first quarter, forecasting a year-over-year spike of 80% to 90%.
Both companies are sporting big gains in mobile, but it's not cheap to stand out. Qunar isn't expected to turn an annual profit until 2017 at the earliest. Ctrip is just seasonally unprofitable, but it's not earning as much as it was a couple of years ago. Profitability at Ctrip peaked in 2011, according to S&P Capital IQ data.
The market applauded both companies' top-line growth last week. That's certainly refreshing to see, but investors will rest a lot easier when the rubble settles and margins inch higher again.
MakeMyTrip posted quarterly results last month. The big driver for India's travel portal last week was being singled out by Citigroup as one of the company's three best ideas for Internet stocks in the nation.
Citi initiated coverage of MakeMyTrip with a buy rating last year after a strong first-quarter report. India hasn't received the same kind of love from foreign investors as have China's dot-com darlings, and some of the knocks -- primarily the slow online migration in India and weak rupee -- are more than fair.
Citi feels MakeMyTrip stands to benefit from the network effects as a result of its market dominance in air ticketing and the mobile growth opportunities in the higher-margin realm of accommodation bookings.
All three stock rocked last week, but only Qunar hit a new 52-week high on the news. Ctrip and MakeMyTrip still have significant of ground to make up to establish new highs, but if growth continues to accelerate as they drum up some more Wall Street support, they may very well reach their destinations.