The Exchange

How Kaley Cuoco Is Crushing Expedia

Online travel vendor Expedia (EXPE) better find an answer to Kaley Cuoco — and quick.

Shares of the travel website plummeted more than 25% on Friday to less than $49 after it posted a second consecutive quarter of disappointing revenue and profits Thursday night. The shares had been up 6% for the year before the plunge.

Cuoco, star of hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” has been winning business for Expedia's competitor Priceline.com (PCLN) in a series of commercials with former Star Trek star William Shatner.

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Cuoco

In the ads, Cuoco plays the daughter of Priceline’s longtime pitchman, The Negotiator, played by Shatner. They push Priceline’s Express Deals service, which offers discounted hotel rooms and car rentals at a fixed price without bidding. That competes directly with Expedia’s Hotwire discount site.

Hotwire takes a pounding

And Hotwire has taken a pounding. As analysts blamed Hotwire for Expedia's problems, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi admitted after Thursday's release that the site faced “particularly acute” challenges and performance was “worse than we expected," even after a disappointing first quarter.

Priceline is coming from behind in the nearly $1 trillion U.S. travel market, though it leads Expedia globally. In 2012, Priceline captured just 11% of U.S. travel bookings, far behind Expedia’s 43% share, according to market tracker PhoCusWright.

In the second quarter, Expedia posted revenue of $1.21 billion, up 16% from a year ago but still falling short of analyst estimates of $1.26 billion, according to FactSet. And earnings per share of 64 cents didn’t meet the 82-cent consensus.

The situation isn’t looking much better for the rest of the year, either, according to Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju, who rates Expedia shares “neutral.”

“The competition from Priceline.com will be ongoing as it looks to gain share in the U.S. market,” he wrote after Thursday’s earnings release. “The net result for now is a step-down in the hotel room night growth rate, as well as incremental questions around its medium-to-longer term growth trajectory.”

He cut estimates on Expedia’s revenue and profits for this year and next and chopped his target price to $65 from $72.

Amid yesterday’s messy earnings call, Expedia CEO Khosrowshahi said the company was “working through some initiatives to hopefully regain some momentum in that business.”

Maybe Cuoco’s castmate Johnny Galecki could pair with Shatner’s old mate, Leonard Nimoy?

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