- Priceline and Expedia both delivered results that beat market expectations.
- Their results indicate that travel buying is still growing at a double-digit rate.
- Airlines, hotels, and cruise lines all look better, as does the general market.
We are well past the point where the two online travel giants were taking share in their niche. They have become proxies for general travel. What their ongoing success suggests is that, despite the headlines, and despite a reported global slowdown, people still want to travel. The global economy may be much stronger than people realize.
Priceline has made “busting the number” a habit and it did this again on Wednesday. Net income for the quarter was $504 million, $10.14 per share on revenue of $2 billion, with the total spent on travel through the site coming in at $12 billion, up 13% from a year ago.
Priceline stock has long followed the example of Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A (NYSE:BRK.A) and refused to split its stock. There are only about 50 million common shares of Priceline, but its success has driven their value to well over $1,000/share. (Besides the eponymous name your price site, Priceline also owns such sites as Booking.Com, Rentalcars.com and OpenTable.com, the last of them a restaurant reservation service.) Before the earnings came out, fears on the number had driven Priceline stock price down to $1,050. They opened for trade on February 19 at $1,250 and rose to close the session at $1283.7 per share.
Expedia had reported earnings just a few days before, and it also exploded estimates, as our Brian Wu reported. Shares rose 12% after it reported 25% YoY growth in bookings, which was even better than the 19% growth achieved in Q4 2014. Expedia stock closed February 19 trading session at over $108/share. (In addition to Expedia.com, the company also owns sites such as Hotels.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com and Homeaway.com, which competes with Airbnb.com.)
Of course, most of the money these companies earn is a pass through from airlines, hotels, and cruise lines that provide travel services. Airlines like Delta (NYSE:DAL), American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) and Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), cruise lines like Carnival Corp (NYSE:CCL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL), and hotel stocks like Hilton Worldwide (NYSE:HLT), Starwood Hotels & Resorts (NYSE:HOT) and Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR) are all down on the year, as investors fear people will cancel travel plans over fears about refugees, the SIKA virus, terrorism and as war continue to grow.
The results from Priceline and Expedia, which deliver a large percentage of these firms’ customers, could mean that their own Web sites are doing poorly in attracting travelers. More likely, it means that the travel market is healthy, despite investor concerns.
The airlines, especially, are relative bargains at the present time. Delta stock has a trailing Price/Earnings ratio of 8.3. Southwest stock is trading at 12. American is trading at a P/E ratio of 5.6. All these figures are below the general market, where the S&P 500 is trading at an average trailing year P/E ratio of about 16.3. (Expedia is trading at 18.7, and Priceline at over 25, both higher than the market.)
The bottom line is simple. You can make a lot of money in travel these days. Which also means the general economy, and general market, may be doing better than it appears.