Priceline stealing share, planting seedsNewsBy Dennis Schaal | November 10, 2009Share This article was originally published on Priceline.com recorded another three months of impressive financial results in the third quarter as it stole market share in hotels, with global room nights rising 56.3 percent, fueled by what the company termed "strong performance" in Europe, Asia and the U.S.First, let me take care of the numbers' zoom. Priceline's gross travel bookings in the third quarter were $2.7 billion, a 32.8% jump from the same period in 2008.Priceline's profit, boosted by a tax benefit of $181.9 million, came in at $319 million, a 277.5% increase over Q3 2008. That profit was based on revenue of $730.7 million, a 30.1% climb. Contrasts these sorts of numbers with other companies in international growth mode. Travelzoo, for one, has felt the pain of international expansion and has been forced to pull back a bit.Now, for some Priceline hotel stuff.Some of Priceline's most noteworthy accomplishments during the quarter were in its international hotel business, which saw gross travel bookings increase 38%.The international hotel business, where those big margins are, is the grand prize in the online travel agency sweepstakes and Priceline stood out from the pack in the quarter.While Expedia Inc., with its Expedia, hotels.com and Venere brands, saw global room nights jump 27% to 21.7 million room nights in the quarter, Priceline, starting from a lower base, watched its global room nights shoot up 56.3% to 17.9 million nights through Priceline, Booking.com and Agoda.In a conference call with analysts Nov. 9, Priceline President and CEO Jeffery Boyd told analysts that the company has bigger opportunities in hotels outside Europe, where it leads. That being said, Priceline continues to "plant seeds" in eastern, central and southern Europe, Boyd says.Asia is important to Priceline, as is the Middle East, South Africa and Brazil, he adds, where seed-planting also is under way.Boyd says scale is one of Priceline's most important assets when it enters new markets because it has depth in hotel inventory and content, and can push demand.For example, Booking.com can enter new markets in Asia and "show up" with a substantial pool of European demand, he says.Another advantage is that Priceline has been able to increase marketing spend while its competitors have pulled back.And, Priceline believes that its competitors may be constrained from making themselves whole on that marketing spend next year because that would unduly pressure their earnings.Thus, Priceline's in a nice position right now, and the company's track record says it will continue to be formidable.