Priceline.com's Remarkable Turnaround: What Wall Street's Thinking

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Priceline.com's (PCLN) remarkable return from Internet dot-com bust to tech stalwart continued, as the company smashed fourth-quarter estimates once again.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based Priceline earned $8.85 a share for the fourth-quarter, sharply beating analysts' estimates of $8.29 a share. Revenue also beat consensus estimates, coming in at $1.54 billion, vs. the $1.52 billion estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Shares of Priceline were soaring in early Friday trading, gaining 3.3% to $1,325.16.

PCLN ChartPCLN data by YCharts

For the first-quarter, Priceline said it expects to earn between $6.35 and $6.85 a share, with revenue increasing between 15% to 25% year over year. Analysts surveyed are looking for earnings of $7.21 per share, with revenue growth of 27% for the quarter.

"The Priceline Group finished 2013 with a strong 4th quarter, reporting accelerating hotel, rental car and airline ticket unit growth," president and CEO Darren Huston said in a press release. Room reservations grew by 37% for the year, compared to 40% in 2012, which reflects "only modest deceleration on a large scale business."

Following the report, several analysts on Wall Street were positive on the company, with some raising their price targets to near $1,500 a share. Here's what a few of them had to say.

JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey (Market Outperform, $1,475 PT)

"We reiterate our Market Outperform rating and raise our price target to $1,475 from $1,165 given 4Q results that delivered accelerating bookings growth and share gains internationally and domestically. While growth came from across Priceline's core markets, we believe 4Q13 results benefited from seasonal strength across Asia and South America and importantly, we believe we are beginning to see the effects of Priceline's Booking.com expansion strategy. For example, as Booking.com expands its hotel inventory domestically, we believe it attracts both domestic and international travelers and we note the U.S. is now the largest Booking.com destination globally."

Deutsche Bank analyst Ross Sandler (Buy, $1,425 PT)

"Priceline reported gross profit and EBITDA that were 2% and 10% above our estimates for 4Q. The company continues to execute near-flawlessly, with key international bookings growth re-accelerating to +42% ex-FX despite a 200bps tougher comp. More importantly, PCLN online marketing is leveraging on Kayak synergies, improving ROI and improving ADR, for the second quarter in a row. We continue to view PCLN as one of the best ways to play global online travel, and are increasing our estimates modestly, mostly on higher EBITDA/GP margins. Buy."

UBS analyst Eric Sheridan (Buy, $1,300 PT)

"Revenue came in at $1.54b (vs. our est of $1.52b & Street est of $1.52b), for 29% YoY growth, on gross bookings of $9.1b (vs. our est of $8.8b), for 39% YoY growth. Gross profit came in at $1.33b (vs. our est of $1.27b) for 42% growth, while Adj. EBITDA was $578mm (vs. our est of $535mm & Street est of $539mm) for 36% YoY growth. Adj. EPS came in at $8.85 (vs. our est of $8.45 & Street est of $8.29) for 31% growth."

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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