Priceline's Stock Climbs, Despite Europe Crisis
Priceline.com, the U.S. online travel agency, has seen its stocks rise to near $1,000 — a record it set during the dot-com bubble of the 1990s.
Priceline purchased the Amsterdam-based Booking.com in 2005, and has relied on European hotel reservations for its growth.
This comes despite the tanking economies of some of the biggest European tourist destinations: Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Spain.
- Marty Schenker, executive editor at Bloomberg. He tweets @mschenker.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW.
It seems like this summer, a lot of travelers are taking their advice from Captain Kirk.
(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL AD)
WILLIAM SHATNER: Vacations are always a good idea. No time. Out quickly. You're miles from your destination. You need a hotel tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We don't have time to bid.
SHATNER: You don't have to bid. At Priceline, you can choose from thousands of hotels on sale every day.
HOBSON: That is, of course, William Shatner, who is, by the way, 82 years old, "Star Trek" fame. He has been the pitchman for Priceline since the late '90s. Now, the company has had its ups and downs. But now, it is really on the uptick with its stock price approaching $1,000 a share. Marty Schenker of Bloomberg News joins us with more. And, Marty, first of all, put that into perspective for us. What does it mean to have a stock price approaching a $1,000 a share?
MARTY SCHENKER: Well, it means that you're doing very well when it comes to Priceline. But by comparison, Apple's stock price is more than - is half the size but the company itself is much, much bigger.
HOBSON: So it doesn't necessarily mean just by having a higher stock price - I mean, Apple is in the, what, 460-ish dollars a share.
HOBSON: And if we're nearing a thousand for Priceline, that doesn't necessarily mean anything about the size or the value of the company?
SCHENKER: Not necessarily, although Priceline is one of the best-performing stocks of the past decade. At one point a decade ago it was trading in the 20s. And so if you own Priceline stock, you've done extremely well regardless of what the stock price is.
HOBSON: Now, what is this about? What is driving Priceline stock so much higher?
SCHENKER: Well, they do a really good job of booking hotels and, to a certain extent, airline fares, but most of their business is booking hotels. And what was really startling about their latest earnings report yesterday was international travel, Europe. Troubled Europe was one of the places where they did extraordinarily well.
HOBSON: Well, how is that possible? Because we've heard about all kinds of multinational companies having trouble in Europe right now given the recession there, the debt crisis. Nobody wants to spend any money in those European countries.
SCHENKER: Well, that is true. And budget-conscious people who are traveling in Europe are looking for the best deals they can get. And with their advertising and with their acquisition of Booking.com, which was a European-based travel - online travel outfit, they obviously are dominating the marketplace.
HOBSON: Are Priceline's competitors also doing well? Is it that everyone wants cheaper deals right now, or is Priceline doing something - it's got some sort of magic sauce that the others don't?
SCHENKER: Well, the - part of their magic sauce may be what you alluded to earlier. William Shatner and being a great marketer is helping them. Some of their competitors are doing well. Some of their - some of them are not. Expedia, for instance, is lagging behind Priceline, and there's some indication Priceline is taking market share from there and others.
HOBSON: And, Marty, just before we let you go, is Priceline actually giving a better deal? I have often looked around. You look at Priceline. You look at Expedia. You look at Travelocity or Orbitz or KAYAK, or you go to the airlines directly to try to get a deal. And sometimes one of them is better than the others and sometimes it's not.
SCHENKER: That's - that often is the case, but it's like your favorite TV show. Once you get used to using a particular service, you sometimes just can't go anywhere else. And their habitual users are what's driving their business.
HOBSON: Marty Schenker of Bloomberg News, thanks as always.
SCHENKER: You're welcome.
HOBSON: And still to come on HERE AND NOW, they look like old-fashioned blimps. But two new military aircraft that will float above the D.C. area will use advanced radar to help take out threats. We are back with that story in a minute. HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.