Fri, Feb 23, 2001 EST
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Priceline Reports Higher-Than-Expected Loss
By Denise Lavoie   Associated Press
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NORWALK, Conn. — Priceline.com reported fourth quarter losses that were more drastic than Wall Street had expected, but significantly reduced from year ago losses.

The online retailer of airline tickets, rental cars, hotel rooms and more blamed seasonal weakness, costs associated with the closing of its gasoline and grocery sales service and negative news stories about customer satisfaction.

The company, which allows customers to name the price they're willing to pay for something and then holds them to it if the product or service is available, had a fourth quarter net loss of $105 million, or 62 cents a share, compared with losses of $921.4 million, or $5.91 a share, a year earlier.

Excluding charges related to the company's restructuring, severance packages for former employees and new retention incentives, Priceline reported an operating loss of $25 million, or 15 cents per share, more than doubling the loss analysts were anticipating. Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial were expecting a loss of 7 cents a share.

Shares of Priceline rose 6 cents to $3.06 in after hours trading on Thursday after finishing the regular trading session up 43.7 cents, or 17 percent, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Priceline's revenues rose 35 percent to $228 million in 2000, compared with $169 million a year ago.

The company's net loss for the year was $329.5 million, or $1.97 per share, compared with a loss $1 billion, or $7.90 per share, for all of 1999. Full year 2000 revenue shot up 156 percent to $1.24 billion, compared with $482.4 million reported in 1999.

In a conference call with analysts, Priceline.com President and Chief Executive Officer Daniel H. Schulman said the company expects to have operating profits as early as the second quarter of this year. Operating profit excludes restructuring and special charges, supplier warrant charges, option payroll taxes and stock-based compensation charges.

Priceline said it closed its auto insurance, life insurance, business-to-business and wireless initiatives in order to focus on its travel business, which it believes can drive the company to operating profitability on its own.

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