November 7, 2016 / 9:57 PM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 2-Priceline profit, revenue beat as hotel bookings surge

(Adds details from conference call, background)

Nov 7 (Reuters) - Travel website operator Priceline Group Inc's quarterly profit and revenue beat analysts' estimates, driven by higher hotel and rental car bookings, and the company reported strong gross bookings.

Shares of the company were up 5.4 percent at $1,559.99 in after-hours trading on Monday. If current gains hold, the stock is set to open at a record high on Tuesday.

The current quarter is "off to a solid start," Chief Financial Officer Daniel Finnegan said on a post-earnings conference call. "The macro environment feels relatively healthy for us," he said.

Priceline, the world's largest online travel agency by market value, said it expected total gross bookings to rise 16-21 percent in the fourth quarter.

Bookings soared 24.9 percent to $18.46 billion in the third quarter ended Sept. 30.

Priceline's customers booked 29.4 percent more nights in hotels than a year earlier, while car rental bookings rose 12.5 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30.

Rival Expedia Inc said last month October bookings looked "healthy". (bit.ly/2fkj6hI)

Expedia and Priceline dominate online hotel bookings globally, but are facing competition from the apartment-sharing startups such as Airbnb, as well as hotels offering direct bookings through their own websites.

Priceline said on Monday it continues to search for a new chief executive.

Former CEO Darren Huston resigned in April after an investigation found that his personal relationship with an employee violated the company's code of conduct. Priceline named Jeffery Boyd interim CEO.

Revenue rose 18.9 percent to $3.69 billion in the third quarter. (bit.ly/2fyDmuK)

However, the company's net income more than halved to $506 million, or $10.13 per share, due to a non-cash charge of $941 million related to an impairment of OpenTable's goodwill.

Priceline acquired restaurant reservation website operator OpenTable Inc for $2.6 billion in 2014.

Excluding items, the company earned $31.18 per share.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of $29.91 per share and revenue of $3.62 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Up to Monday's close, Priceline's shares had risen 16.1 percent this year, outperforming a 4.3 percent rise for the broader S&P 500 index. (Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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