Priceline.com Beats Estimates

Sales rise 21%.
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Priceline.com's

(PCLN)

third-quarter profit and sales beat analysts' expectations.

The Internet retailer said late Wednesday that profit for the quarter ended Sept. 30 fell to $48.8 million, or $1.05 a share, from $171.6 million, or $3.71 a share, a year earlier. However, year-ago results included a tax benefit of $158.6 million.

Excluding items, the company earned $30.2 million, or 72 cents a share, compared with $19.3 million, or 47 cents a share, a year earlier.

Net sales increased 21% to $313.5 million in the quarter, compared with $259 million in the same quarter last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a profit of 67 cents a share on sales of $302.1 million.

"Priceline Europe had an excellent quarter, with gross travel bookings of $398 million in the 3rd quarter 2006, which represents an organic growth rate of approximately 121%, said President and CEO Jeffery H. Boyd in a press release. "Domestically, in the 3rd quarter priceline.com experienced organic gross travel bookings growth of 13.2% and 13.0% growth in merchant gross travel bookings, which we believe demonstrates solid results for our opaque and retail merchant hotel services."

For the fourth quarter, the company said it expects an approximately 15% increase in revenue, and pro forma net income between 36 and 42 cents a share.

Analysts were expecting earnings of 38 cents a share.

Shares of Priceline climbed $3.05, or 7.6%, to $43.45 in recent after-hours trading.