Priceline.com to expand down under

Priceline.com's out to prove that's it more than just an airline ticket outlet willing to give William Shatner a chance at a second career. On Tuesday it announced that it would expand its services to Australia and New Zealand.

The new firm will be called MyPrice and it will be headed up by two former top executives of Australia's biggest telecommunications company, Telstra Corp Ltd.

Frank Blount, former chief executive officer of Telstra, will be chairman of MyPrice, while Peter Shore, Telstra's former group managing director of commercial and consumer operations, will be chief executive of the new firm.

MyPrice is set to launch two Web sites later this year to serve the 23 million residents of Australia and New Zealand.

Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) shares closed up 2 1/16 to 55 15/16 Tuesday.

What began as a simple "name your own price" service for airline tickets has expanded into home mortgages, hotel rooms, automobiles and, as of last week, gasoline.

Under the terms of the definitive agreement, Priceline will license its business model to MyPrice, and also provide technological and marketing expertise.

The new firm will pay Priceline an annual licensing fee for Priceline's intellectual property. In addition, Priceline will buy a convertible note allowing it to take up to a 50-percent stake in the company under certain conditions.