Priceline.com Inc., the biggest U.S. online travel agency by stock market value, forecast fourth-quarter sales that missed analysts’ estimates, citing concern that the debt crisis in Greece will spread across Europe.
Sales will rise 27 percent to 32 percent from a year earlier, the Norwalk, Connecticut-based company said Monday in a statement. Analysts on average expected an increase of 36 percent to $994.9 million, according to a Bloomberg survey.
Priceline gets more than half its revenue from overseas, where the Greek debt crisis is crimping spending on international travel. Greece’s prime minister, George Papandreou, is trying to work out a deal to maintain outside financing and avert an economic collapse. Priceline had been relying on Europe, home to its Booking.com unit, to fuel growth.
The company said “concerns relating to potential sovereign defaults by Greece and other European states, may subject operating results to greater variability in the future.”
Priceline tumbled in late trading. The shares, up 27 percent this year, had closed at $509.
Excluding some costs, profit was $9.95 a share in the third quarter. That compares with the $9.30 average estimate of analysts, according to Bloomberg data. Revenue increased 45 percent to $1.5 billion, compared with the $1.42 billion projected by analysts.
Priceline’s Booking.com acquisition, completed in 2005, had been helping the company take sales from Expedia Inc. and Orbitz Worldwide Inc. Expedia said last month that third-quarter revenue climbed 15 percent to $1.14 billion. Orbitz’s revenue rose 4 percent to $202.9 million.
Priceline, whose ads use William Shatner to promote its name-your-own-price service, has expanded into different business models in the past six years to win business from international travelers. In addition to the purchase of Amsterdam-based Booking.com, it pushed into Asia in 2007 with the acquisition of Agoda.com in Bangkok.
In September, Priceline appointed former Microsoft Corp. executive Darren Huston as chief executive officer of Booking.com, replacing the unit’s founder, Kees Koolen.
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