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Shares of



soared 36% after the travel Web site operator's first-quarter profit blew away analysts' expectations.

The New York company made $4.1 million, or 24 cents per share, in the latest quarter, up from the $1.3 million, or 11 cents, during the year earlier period. Sales jumped 51% from a year ago to $16.9 million, the New York-based company said in a statement. Three analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had projected earnings of 14 cents on sales of $14.7 million.

Travelzoo benefited from a lower-than-expected loss from its operations in Europe and a decrease in its effective tax rate, says Ralph Bartel, the company's chief executive.

The European unit, which started in May 2005, had a loss of $460,000, down from $579,000. Revenue jumped 49% to $565,000.

The company's North American business had revenue of $16.4 million, up 46% from a year earlier. The unit's operating profit more than doubled to $7.4 million.

Shares of Travelzoo were down about 9% this year heading into the report. They rose $7.11 to $27.09 in morning trading. The earnings surprise also helped push up shares of other online travel companies including






, operator of the Orbitz travel site. Expedia jumped 14 cents to $19.15, while Cendant rose 22 cents to $16.98.

Whether Wall Street will warm up to online travel companies will be more apparent after Expedia, the largest online travel site, reports first-quarter results May 11. Investors have expressed concerns about growing competition among the sites and from suppliers such as airlines. The rivalry can lead to consumer confusion, as each site claims that it is offering the lowest prices.