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Priceline posts narrower-than-expected loss

The online retailer beats analysts' expectations, adding 1.5 million new customers during the first quarter.

    Online retailer Priceline.com posted a narrower-than-expected loss, as it added 1.5 million new customers during the first quarter, the company said today.

    Norwalk, Conn.-based Priceline, which allows customers to name their own prices for items ranging from airline tickets to groceries, said its net loss, excluding certain items, narrowed to $7.3 million, or 4 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $16.8 million, or 12 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

    Priceline's results beat analysts' expectations of a loss of 6 cents a share, according to First Call.

    The company reported revenues of $313.8 million for the first quarter of 2000, a 535 percent increase over revenues of $49.4 million in the first quarter of 1999 and an 85 percent increase over revenues of $169.2 million in the fourth quarter of 1999.

    Priceline, like eBay, is an alternative commerce exchange. Customers list prices they are willing to pay for travel tickets, hotel rooms and loans, and sellers can either match the prices or make counteroffers.

    The company continues to expand its offerings--but only after testing them in regional markets. The company's auto service debuted last year in prime car-buying markets such as New York, Miami and California. Last week, the company launched the service nationwide.

    The firm is testing online groceries in New York and other East Coast cities.

    Shares of Priceline, like other high-profile Internet stocks, have cooled after an early wave of euphoria that sent them to $150 last May--shortly after the company's Nasdaq Stock Market debut. The stock has remained between $55 and $85 in the past few months.

    Priceline fell $5.44, or 8 percent, to $62.44 in midday trading on volume of 1.43 million shares.