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TheStreet Open House

5 Online Travel Stocks With Upside

Priceline (PCLN) is an online travel company offering a range of travel services including hotel bookings, car rentals, airline tickets, vacation packages, cruises and destination services. Customers can book hotel room reservations in over 100 countries. Of the 21 analysts covering the stock, 76% recommended buying, while the remaining advise holding. On an average, analysts estimate a 12.3% upside from current levels.

ThinkEquity believes that Priceline is well positioned for gaining international market share as 69% of its gross bookings are from the international circuit. The research firm forecasts Priceline's international business to increase by 40% in 2011. For the third quarter ended September 2010, the company's international bookings soared 78% year-over-year. Meanwhile, the supplier-friendly model for hotels with affordable commission rates and attractive offerings for consumers creates the right mix for high-growth rates.

An analyst at RBC Capital Markets said that despite accumulating huge gains in 2010, the company has a vast unrealized potential through its booking.com site, which analysts regard as the leading global hotel booking site. Furthermore, analyst adds that most of the hotels in Europe are small and single-owner operated and rely on booking.com for advertising.

JP Morgan has assigned an overweight rating on the stock, based on the estimated growth in domestic and international markets the company will likely enjoy. Analysts believe that under penetration in the hotel space provides additional room for growth, offering companies like Priceline an added advantage. In addition, rapid growth in emerging markets and an opportunity to foray there will also benefit the company.

Domestic gross bookings are seen increasing 7% year-over-year during 2011, given the continuous development of booking.com in the U.S. hotel market industry. During the past two quarters, the company's gross profit growth has outpaced advertising expenditure, as indicated by improved efficiency. Therefore, higher brand awareness will lead to expanding growth rates. JP Morgan estimates operating margin at 31% for 2011, compared to 28% in 2010.

Looking ahead, Priceline is better positioned in terms of growth due to its exposure to the international markets, relative to peers Expedia and Orbitz.

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