Priceline.com Flies High

Online travel agent Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) ended the quiet period after its initial public offering with a thunderous roar on Monday that dazzled Wall Street. Priceline.com, which allows customers to name their price for travel arrangements, announced that more than one million users have tried their services in the company’s first year of operation, with 300,000 new consumers using the services each quarter.

The company also announced that it sold 330,000 leisure airline tickets in its first 12 months and booked 75,000 hotel nights since that feature launched in October

Priceline.com also demonstrated that it is becoming an Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) of sorts by branching out into other categories in major ways. Priceline.com announced that $125 million in home mortgage offers were accepted in the first 90 days that service was available, and $11 million in new cars have been sold in their New York test market.

“In a very short time, our product teams have been able to deliver on the promise of our proprietary business model by successfully implementing our plan to roll out Priceline.com’s system into major industry sectors with very strong results,” said Rick Braddock, chairman and CEO of Priceline.com.

Rapid Expansion

Just last week, Priceline.com’s hotel-room reservations service, which launched in October in 26 cities, was expanded to cover more than 1,100 destinations in all 50 states. More than 4,000 hotels have signed up to offer unsold rooms through Priceline.com. In addition to offering rooms in major cities, Priceline.com also offers reservations for smaller cities and towns. The service is now selling 5,000 hotel nights each week.

When Priceline.com launched in April 1998, only five airlines were suppliers. Now that number is up to 18 domestic and international airlines. Priceline.com is now selling an average of more than 20,000 leisure airline tickets a week.

Stock Impact

Shares of Priceline.com, which just went public at the end of last month, soared 37 percent, closing up 32-3/4 to 120-3/4 on Monday after the news. The company is becoming a darling for analysts. On Monday, Goldman Sachs put Priceline.com on its recommended list, BancBoston Robertson Stephens started coverage of Priceline.com with a buy rating, and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter rated it an outperform.

Shares of Priceline.com continued to climb today, rising 5-1/4 to 126 in early trading. Today, Morgan Stanley started coverage of the company with an outperform rating.

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