By Ben Fox Rubin
Priceline.com Inc.'s (PCLN) fourth-quarter earnings rose 28% as the online travel agent's international bookings business continued to show strength, as did its rental-car sales.
Shares rose 4.6% after hours to $709.33 as the company's adjusted earnings came in ahead of guidance. As of Tuesday's close, the stock was up 6% over the past three months.
The company has reported stronger quarterly earnings for several years on growth in its hotel-bookings business, especially for international bookings. Priceline's heavy reliance on the hotel business has helped protect its revenue from a recent pullback in air travel, which makes up a smaller share of its sales.
Priceline in November agreed to buy Kayak Software Corp. (KYAK) in a deal that values the online-travel aggregator at $1.8 billion in cash and stock. The purchase, which was unveiled just a few months after Kayak debuted as a public company, should give Priceline a leading source of online travel advertising revenue and a large base of new site traffic.
Gross bookings rose 33%. International bookings were up 40%, though that increase was below the 66% rise posted a year earlier. Domestic bookings improved 4.4%.
The company posted a profit of $288.7 million, or $5.63 a share, up from $225.7 million, or $4.41 a share, a year earlier. Excluding restricted stock adjustments and other items, earnings rose to $6.77 a share from $5.37. Revenue jumped 20% to $1.19 billion.
In November, the company forecast adjusted earnings of $6.12 to $6.57 a share on revenue growth of about 15% to 22%.
Gross margin rose to 78.9% from 73.1%.
Hotel-room nights sold rose 38% from a year earlier. Rental-car days sold were up 37%. Airline ticket volume was up 1.7%.
The company predicted first-quarter adjusted earnings of $4.90 to $5.30 a share on revenue growth of about 17% to 24%. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters most recently expected $5.14 a share and 19% growth.
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