Priceline‘s international businesses saw triple- digit growth in first quarter gross bookings and revenues in another strong quarter for the business.
Europe-focused bedbank Booking.com is its main international business. Non-US gross bookings in the quarter of $1 billion represent a 100% increase on Q1 07, with revenues 118% ahead at $104.2 million.
The first quarter numbers exceeded its own guidance and the expectation of Wall Street. Chief finanical officer Bob Mylod said that when guidance was given in February, the euro was worth $1.43 – by the end of the quarter it was $1.58, ‘so that meant that the international gross bookings that we generated in Q1 translated into significantly more dollars than we anticipated.’
However, he also admitted that Priceline lost out on some hedging activity which directly impacted the bottom line. “Had [we] not engaged in any FX hedging activities during the quarter, the EPS upside that we are reporting today would have been even greater,” he said.
Booking.com now has 45,000 hotels in 60 countries, with its inventory also shifted through priceline.com. Chief executive officer Jeff Boyd also noted “growing repeat business to booking.com and other booking-branded sites where we continue to focus our online brand building.”
He outlined Booking.com’s growth patterns: “Continental Europe has been and continues to grow at a faster rate than the UK. Some of the newer markets, Eastern Europe Scandinavia and Asia, are growing at faster rates than Western Europe.”
He added that by Booking.com’s marketing efficiency was helped by “the mix of markets that we operate in” compared with its rivals. “Some of the newer markets just do not have as much competition for online advertising as a very mature market like the UK might.”
Priceline also announced that it has appointed Kees Koolen will become CEO of Booking.com from the start of September. Koolen steps up from COO. Current CEO Stef Norden is “retiring to pursue other interests” but retains a seat on Priceline’s international board.