Priceline Tops 4Q Views, Warns of Currency Effects

Features Reuters

Priceline Group Inc reported quarterly profit that beat Wall Street expectations on Thursday but forecast first-quarter revenue below estimates due largely to foreign exchange volatility.

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Priceline, the travel booking website, said fourth-quarter profit rose nearly 20 percent from the year-earlier period to about $452 million. It earned $10.85 per non-GAAP diluted share. Analysts, on average, estimated non-GAAP earnings per share of $10.10.

Priceline, the world's largest travel service company by bookings, narrowly topped rival Expedia Inc for gross bookings last quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares rose 6.3 percent to $1,193 in premarket trading.

Priceline forecast a revenue increase between 4 percent and 11 percent for the first quarter, or up to $1.82 billion. Analysts were looking for first-quarter revenue of $1.86 billion.

The "extreme volatility in foreign exchange rates significantly affects our operating results," Chief Financial Officer Daniel Finnegan said on an earnings conference call, adding that this "will translate into significantly fewer dollars" of sales for the company.

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"The fundamental performance in our business is still evident," he said.

The company forecast that total gross travel bookings would rise between 2 percent and 9 percent in the first quarter, with an increase of 9 percent to 16 percent in gross profit. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)