UPDATE 1-Priceline earnings beat estimates; shares surge
(Adds executive and analyst comments, detail on bookings, forecasts, share movement, changes headline)
Feb 17 (Reuters) - Priceline Group Inc on Wednesday reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit after hotel and rental car bookings rose, with travel demand suffering only briefly from the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.
Shares of the online travel services company surged more than 11 percent in premarket trading after it said fourth-quarter earnings rose nearly 12 percent from a year earlier to $504.3 million.
Excluding special items such as stock-based employee compensation, earnings of $12.63 per share topped the analysts' average estimate of $11.80, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"It's been a pretty rocky market externally, but for travel, it's actually been quite good," Chief Executive Officer Darren Huston said in an interview.
Lower oil prices have resulted in lower airfares that have enticed travelers, he said. The operator of Booking.com, Priceline.com and Kayak.com reported a nearly 13 percent rise in bookings to $12 billion for the quarter, with hotel nights jumping 27 percent.
While the company had a couple of weeks' worth of cancellations for European travel after Islamic State militants killed 130 people in Paris, bookings to the area have returned to their typical rate of growth, he said.
Rival Expedia Inc said a week ago that its travel volumes there had not rebounded fully.
Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson attributed Priceline's seemingly faster recovery to Booking.com's brand recognition and wider hotel selection that gave travelers more options when rethinking trips in Europe. Continuación...