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Media Sharks Circling Priceline.com?

It hasn't been a fun week to be Priceline.com, but at least one analyst with a "buy" rating on the company thinks the recent bad news is just a media feeding frenzy.

In fact, Steve Marotta of Wasserstein Perella & Co. said the firm has a buy rating on the stock and a 52-week high prediction of $62 share. Priceline stock tumbled yesterday to near its 52-week low of $19.81 after the media got hold of reports that celeb spokesman William Shatner doesn't actually use the service himself.

Big deal, Marotta, told Internetnews.com. "I highly doubt that Martha Stewart goes skipping into her local Kmart every time she needs something. The bottom line is that William Shatner is not the target customer here...It's preposterous...I'm very surprised the media is giving it as much play as they're giving it."

The other piece of bad news came in a Wall Street Journal report that Priceline was kicked out of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau after about 300 complaints were filed against the company since 1998 by consumers in the company's home state.

"I believe the overall customer satisfaction level ... completely supercedes this very minor negative publicity," Marotta said.

Priceline stock was trading at $21.06 in early afternoon, after opening at $19.875. It's 52-week high is $104.25. The stock started tanking Thursday after reports that CBS News planned a "48 Hours" TV report focused on alleged customer unhappiness. CBS said the show revealed that Shatner does not actually use the company's services because he always flies first class.

A Priceline spokesman has downplayed the news about customer complaints, saying that 300 alleged complaints seems a low number compared with the more than five million airline tickets the company has sold.



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