Priceline.com says it has reached profitability

Online name-your-own-price vendor Priceline.com Inc., looking barely alive in February after posting a US$105 million fourth-quarter loss, says it turned a corner and made a $2.8 million net profit in the second quarter.

In an announcement yesterday, the Norwalk, Conn.-based company reported total revenues of $364.8 million for the second quarter ended June 30, compared with revenues of $352 million a year earlier. Priceline reported gross profit of $60 million for the quarter, up from $54.8 million a year ago.

The $2.8 million net profit for the period reversed the $11.7 million net loss reported one year ago.

The company said it reached the improved numbers by reducing expenses. Pro forma operating expenses for the second quarter dropped to $50.2 million from $51.1 million in this year's first quarter and from $62 million in last year's fourth quarter, when cost-cutting began.

A company spokesman could not be reached for comment early today.

Priceline said it added about 1 million new customers during the quarter, giving it a base of about 10.9 million customers.

"The hard work of Priceline.com's employees in improving our products and service while making Priceline.com more efficient has paid off with a recovery in top-line growth and Priceline.com's first profitable quarter," said Jeffrey Boyd, the company's president and chief operating officer, in a statement.

Richard Braddock, the company's chairman and CEO, said that the online travel business has helped fuel Priceline.com's improved economic performance.

"Online travel appears to be one of the few sweet spots in e-commerce," he said. "Based on second-quarter results and our performance in July, we are increasing the guidance we previously gave for third quarter 2001 and now expect revenues to exceed third quarter 2000 revenues of $341 million."

In May, amid lackluster economic performance, Priceline dumped CEO Daniel Schulman and replaced him with Braddock, who had previously served as the company's CEO, as part of a shakeup effort.

In February, the company posted a $105 million fourth-quarter net loss but said it was positioning itself for a recovery by cutting costs and paring its offerings.

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