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TheStreet Open House

Two New Ways for Investors to Play Apple's Dominance

Stocks in this article: AAPLDISPCLNIACIGOOGAMZN

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Priceline.com

One of the world's largest online travel agents, Priceline's perfectly positioned for the mobile boom.

Research from ComScore, for example, found that nearly 40 million consumers accessed travel sites or apps from their smartphone during July's peak holiday season, reaching 37% of the smartphone population. Search giant Google (GOOG) has also identified this trend, recently predicting that 35% of travel-related searches will come from mobile devices in 2012, a figure expected to reach 45% in 2013.

Cue Priceline, which has been attracting plenty of positive attention recently.

"I've actually been making the case for quite some time that the explosion of mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Samsung Note and Kindle Fire all bode well for the holiday season for brick-and-mortar and ecommerce companies that are prepared to take advantage of mobile," wrote Daniel Kurnos, an Equity Analyst at Benchmark Capital, in an email to TheStreet. "Some notable examples of beneficiaries include Priceline, Orbitz (OWW), Amazon and eBay (EBAY)."

Priceline does not break out its mobile revenue, but acknowledges that this is a growing part of its business. In a recent note, Deutsche Bank (DB) said that, last year, 6% to 7% of bookings for Priceline's Booking.com division came from the mobile space.

SureVest's Luna told TheStreet that online retailers such as Amazon and Priceline are in an enviable position when it comes to mobile transactions. "There's almost a detachment from the monetary value of the purchase that's being made on the phones," he said. "It's kind of like the casino effect where you use chips."

Priceline's certainly stepping up its efforts around mobile, with CEO Jeffrey Boyd keen to introduce new products which make it easier to complete their transactions. Last month, for example, Priceline added its Express Deals hotel booking feature to the Priceline Negotiator app, available for iOS devices, Android and the Web.

Whereas many of Priceline's businesses let consumers bid on travel, Express Deals offers deals at thousands of hotels without having to bid, something which Boyd sees as critical in the mobile space.

"We feel there is an opportunity not just in our opaque products but across the board to introduce new products in the mobile channel, try to make them very easy for consumers to complete a commercial transaction," he said, during the company's recent second-quarter conference call. Express Deals, he noted, offers consumers savings, but without the stress of bidding for a last-minute transaction on a small screen.

Other mobile moves from Priceline include the recent expansion of its Tonight Only Deals hotel reservation service and the launch of the last-minute Booking.com Tonight app. The company also offers a mobile version of its Web site.

Cantor Fitzgerald, which recently rated Priceline 'new buy' on the strength of overseas growth and market share gains, predicts a massive mobile boost for the online travel industry.

"We believe that the travel sub-segment is likely to see meaningful growth in mobile bookings, given that mobile apps enable customers to do travel planning on the go, track flight status and make/amend flight and hotel reservations," explained Naved Khan, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, in a note. "Major online travel companies like Priceline, Expedia (EXPE) and Orbitz have noted the traction they've been getting with their mobile applications."

Benchmark Capital's Kurnos estimates that Priceline may even be nearing Orbitz' mark of 20% of standalone hotel transactions via mobile. The company's decision to revive its popular 'Negotiator' ad campaign featuring William Shatner in August also bodes well for Priceline's brand recognition and market share in its auction business, he added.

TheStreet Ratings rates Priceline a 'buy' on the strength of its solid stock price, impressive earnings growth and notable return on equity.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

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