The apparent demise of the Priceline Negotiator has done absolutely nothing to slow the juggernaut that is the online-travel services company's stock.
William Shatner's deal-finding and multilingual guide for the globetrotters might have died in a tragic bus crash in late January, but investors found consolation in the fact that Priceline.com (PCLN) shares are up 25% since then. The stock, at $518 on Jan. 23, closed Thursday at nearly $654 each. During that time, the S&P 500 is up about 4%.
That kind of move has practically become the norm for this stock, which has one of the more interesting charts you'll find. Go back to April 1999, the heart of the dot-com boom, and there was Priceline, pushing $1,000 a share. Then, as was the case for so many Internet companies, the bottom fell out. By late 2000, the stock was under $20. In 2003, it was limping along in the single digits.
But that was then. Its rebirth has been absolutely astonishing, and extremely profitable for shareholders, in the past few years. If you had bought Priceline in March 2007 around $52, you're up more than 1,000%.
According to FactSet, no stock on the S&P 500 has been better in the past five years -- and it's not even close. Priceline, the data show, is up a whopping 1,138%. Apple (AAPL), the stock that seemingly has no end to its upward run, has gained a pedestrian, by comparison, 516%.
Concurrent with the share spike has been a tremendous increase in sales, which essentially quadrupled from 2006 to 2011, going from $1.1 billion to $4.4 billion. For this year, FactSet indicates that analysts are on average looking for more than $5.5 billion. They're also generally expecting more price appreciation -- the mean price target is $713, about 9% above the stock's current level.
Priceline's stock was actually down a fraction on Friday, slipping $2.42, or 0.4%. Nothing goes up every single day, even if it seems like it sometimes. Not trying to jinx you here, Priceline investors, so don't get upset. But your secret is out. So just celebrate the good times and all that. You've had an unbelievable run, and without a tremendous amount of fanfare. Only a tremendous amount of padding to your financial accounts.
For now, let's remember the Negotiator: