Priceline: Poised to Push Upward

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Priceline.com ( PCLN) has been around since the days of the dot-com bubble. Now a leader in online travel, analysts believe there's plenty more upside from Priceline's current levels.

The company's stock has outperformed rivals such as Travelzoo ( TZOO), Expedia ( EXPE), and Orbitz ( OWW), as priceline continues to expand into its most important markets, Europe and the UK. Shares of priceline are up 58.5% year-to-date, while Travelzoo is off 14.3%, and Orbitz is down 18.35%. Expedia shares have gained 9.26% since the start of the year.

Not long after receiving a $1,000 price target from Piper Jaffray, analysts from Benchmark and Goldman Sachs have raised their price targets on priceline shares.

Benchmark analyst Daniel Kurnos believes the company's cash flows could rise substantially in the second part of 2012, as it increases its operating leverage in emerging markets and the hotel industry continues to show favorable trends. The analyst boosted his earnings per share estimate for 2012 to $32.31, up from $31.30. He also raised his price target from $692 to $840.

"We see trends in the hotel industry as predominantly favorable, despite ongoing macroeconomic headwinds," Kurnos wrote in his note. "Recent data from Pegasus Solutions showed that booking windows continue to lengthen for leisure and business travel, reaching pre-recession levels globally, supporting our thesis that travel demand should improve modestly in 2012 despite elevated oil prices." He rates priceline shares "buy."

Kurnos notes that Booking.com, priceline's booking agent, will continue to be a strong performer, "as we estimate Booking's market share may still only be in the mid-high single digit range, despite significantly outperforming peers in the region."

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