The online travel service that used to infuriate some penny-pinching potential vacationers is now making Wall Street nod in agreement. Now that Priceline.com has embraced a more traditional portal approach to go along with its travel bidding service, the company is appealing to both the no-nonsense traveler and the one looking to jump through hoops for a discounted rate.

The success is evident in the company's March quarter result, with gross bookings up 47% over last year's showing. Priceline is also raising its 2006 profit guidance. Backing out stock-based compensation, depreciation, and amortization charges, Priceline is expecting to earn between $1.60 to $1.70 per share this year. On that basis, the dozen Wall Street analysts tracking the company figured that it would be good for only $1.58 per share in profitability.

Was salvation really as easy as a renovated website? Not exactly. The dynamics of the new Priceline are apparent as you work your way down the income statement. Merchant revenue was lower, but agency revenue more than doubled. Online advertising costs also more than doubled, as the company made an aggressive attempt to stand out in the crowded field of mainstream portals like Sabre's Travelocity, Expedia, and Cendant's Orbitz.

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