RealTime IT News

Down But Not Out

Battered but apparently unbowed, name-your-own-price e-commerce company Priceline.com has selected Equant to help it expand operations into Europe, Australia and Asia.

The first of these new ventures, Priceline.com Europe, will launch later this year, Equant said. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Under the contract, Equant is providing the e-commerce application that will enable Priceline.com's global users to search for deals. The global app will be based on the system provided by Equant that is currently being used in the United States.

"For the application to work, we require a technology partner capable of building a robust, scaleable application that helps us deliver the service levels our customers expect," said Tim Brier, chairman of Priceline.com Europe. "Equant has been able to provide us with the depth of service we need across the board, from consultancy and development to hardware support.''

Equant began working with Priceline.com in the United States in 1997 to develop the Web site's airline offer processing system. At that time, Equant developed the back-end of Priceline.com's system, including the search application that links various databases within the company's system to the distribution systems that provide the inventory. Later Equant aided in developing the Priceline.com system for hotel reservations.

Priceline.com Europe was set up by Priceline.com and General Atlantic Partners and plans to launch in the UK in the fourth quarter, offering flights, hotels, car rental and long-distance telecoms. Plans call for a subsequent expansion across Europe.

Priceline's stock is still in the cellar, trading today at about $5.40. At one time it was over $104.

The stock tanked several weeks ago when the company said third quarter earnings would not meet estimates. Since then it has been hit with negative national publicity about its advertising, was thrown out of the Better Business Bureau in Connecticut and now is the target of an investigation into consumer complaints by the Connecticut attorney general's office. Just last week its separately managed grocery and gas licensee, Priceline WebHouse Club, said it would never make any money and will shut down within 90 days.