Priceline.com announced Monday morning that it had a first quarter loss of $7.3 million, or 4 cents per share, on sales of $318.8 million. Although this was much better than Wall Street analysts had expected, the stock of Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) was off 9% for the day, closing at $61.75.
Priceline.com also reported that it had a record 1.5 million new customers in the first quarter, bringing its total customer base to 5.3 million. Of this total, 830,000 were repeat customers, a 500% increase over the first quarter of 1999 and a 72% increase over the fourth quarter of 1999.
Priceline.com’s gross profit for the first three months of the year was was $49.0 million, a 752% increase over first quarter 1999 gross profit of $5.8 million and a 103% increase over fourth quarter 1999 gross profit of $24.1 million. Gross margin for the first quarter of 2000 was 15.6%, the highest ever for priceline.com, compared to a first quarter 1999 gross margin of 11.6%.
“Priceline.com’s record-setting performance this quarter was anchored by several key metrics that underscore the uniqueness and scalability of our business, and the steady progress we continue to make toward profitability,” said Richard S. Braddock, priceline.com’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Our customer base grew by 1.5 million new customers and now stands at 5.3 million unique customers. Equally important is the fact that repeat use of our various services climbed 500 percent above levels achieved in the first quarter of 1999.”
Advertising was cited as an important factor in priceline.com’s numbers. “Recognizing the significant seasonal upside potential, we increased our advertising budget for the quarter and introduced our first-ever TV ads featuring William Shatner,” Braddock said. “These ads had an immediate impact and we were rewarded with record numbers of new customers.”