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Priceline Bulks Up Its Pact With Visa

Just days before its quarterly earnings report is due, name-your-own-price travel company Priceline Tuesday launched new marketing and security initiatives, expanding its relationship with Visa U.S.A.

Norwalk, Conn.-based Priceline.com said it will be the first online travel company to implement "Verified by Visa," a password-based authentication system for Visa cardholders.

The service will be made available to users of Priceline's airline ticket, hotel room, rental car and long distance calling services.

The companies also are planning new marketing initiatives, including ads on Priceline promoting Visa. Financial terms of the multi-year agreement were not disclosed, but priceline.com said the deal will contribute positively to its results.

Visa cardholders can register for Verified by Visa through their card issuers' Web sites. The personalized passwords become their online "signatures" for Web purchases. Then, each time a cardholder makes a purchase at priceline.com or other participating e-merchants, a Verified by Visa pop-up window will ask for the password to authenticate the cardholder.

Priceline, which has seen more than its share of trouble as the business malaise swept over the Internet, continues to execute on its turn-around plan. Earlier this month the company said it will acquire 49 percent of Jacksonville, Fla.-based PricelineMortgage, an online loan origination business founded by the Priceline and Alliance Capital Partners. The business was set up last year as a royalty-based licensee of priceline.com.

Third quarter earnings are due out Thursday. Analysts had been expecting pro forma earnings per share of 5 cents, but lowered estimates to 1 cent after the events of Sept. 11.

For its second quarter, the company reported a pro forma profit of 6 cents a share on record revenues of $364.8 million.

Priceline lowered its guidance after the terrorist attack, but two weeks later said that its third-quarter sales would come in at the higher end of the reduced range.