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Priceline opens its doors in Singapore

The site launch comes after the e-tailer gets a strong response to its Hong Kong business. However, the company is still dealing with growth woes and stiffer competition.

Priceline.com on Wednesday opened its online business in Singapore, offering name-your-own-price airline tickets and hotel rooms to travelers flying out of the island country.

The launch of the site came after a better-than-expected response from customers of Priceline's Hong Kong site, its first in Asia, although the Singapore store could not attract the participation of two major regional airlines: Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Since Priceline's Hong Kong operations started last month, the company has "exceeded" its internal targets, said Alfredo Gangotena, chief executive of Hutchison-Priceline, which operates Priceline's Asian business. He declined to reveal the site's volume of transactions.

Hutchison-Priceline is a joint venture between Priceline and Hong Kong conglomerates Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong.

"There is no impact on our business," Gangotena said, from the inability to sell the excess capacity of Hong Kong's largest airline, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines, which is responsible for the bulk of departures from Singapore.

"We are covered by many other airlines, and few (people) are picky about the carriers they travel with," he said. Hutchison-Priceline says it has partnered with 25 airlines and 8,000 hotels worldwide that will offer their excess inventory on Priceline.

Despite reporting a slight profit recently, it is a less-than-rosy time for the Norwalk, Conn.-based company. It must deal with shrinking revenue and stagnating growth at a time when other Web travel companies, such as Expedia and Hotels.com, are flourishing. The company also faces stiffer competition from airline-backed Hotwire--and the airlines themselves--in its core business of discount travel.

Hutchison-Priceline also said the Asian site helps travel buyers save up to 30 percent off average market rates, directly addressing the price-conscious consumer. Citing a survey conducted by the Singapore Tourism Board and Hutchison-Priceline late last year, Gangotena noted that close to half of the 45,000 respondents in Singapore said their budget was the most important criterion when making travel purchases.

By the end of the year, Gangotena hopes to launch a site for Taiwan as well as a reward program for repeat customers in Asia.

CNETAsia's Irene Tham reported from Singapore.