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A Little Traveling Music, Please

Online travel operation Expedia Inc. posted record revenues of $82 million and real earnings of 8 cents per fully diluted share for the quarter ending Dec. 31, compared with a year-ago net loss of $25 million, or 53 cents per share.

Expedia said its net income excluding costs such as merger expenses rose to $19 million, or 31 cents a share, compared to a loss of $2.6 million or 6 cents a share a year earlier.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based company, reporting in after the bell rang on a Monday that saw all travel stocks get a boost, said that for the six months ended Dec. 31, net revenue came in at $161 million, compared with $87 million a year ago.

Net income for the six months was about $500,000, or 1 cent per diluted share.

For the quarter, the net revenue of $82 million represented an increase of 84 percent year-over-year and 3 percent sequentially.

"We accomplished these record results in spite of the travel slowdown caused by the economy and the events of September 11," said Gregory S. Stanger, senior vice president and CFO. "Our results indicate that we have put together a robust business model and a strong consumer brand that enable us to weather business cycles."

Expedia reported $704 million in gross bookings for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2001.

Even before the earnings report came out, shares of online travel firms, including Expedia, climbed sharply on Monday after discount travel operator Hotel Reservations Network reported strong bookings amid further signs of the sector's recovery from the events of Sept. 11.

Expedia closed up $4.02 at $51.02; Hotel Reservations itself, a unit of USA Networks with which Expedia is expected to merge, closed up $7.99 at $52.25 after reporting that it made 27 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2001 before charges, beating forecasts for a 17-cent per share profit.

Last week Expedia bolstered its vacation line by acquiring a vacation wholesaler from Classic Vacation Group Inc. for $52 million in cash and stock.

Expedia shareholders vote next Monday at a reconvened meeting to consider the proposals that were adjourned from the December meeting regarding the proposed merger of a wholly owned subsidiary of USA Networks Inc. and Expedia, with Expedia surviving as a public company controlled by USA. That deal was delayed in light of Vivendi Universal's acquisition of USA Networks' entertainment assets

Meanwhile, Fort Worth, Texas-based rival Travelocity.com teamed with MasterCard International to launch what it called the largest cruise sale in its history, complete with cash back offers of up to $175 for consumers.

Cruises include the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Alaska and Europe and participating cruise lines include Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Holland America and Windstar.

Travelocity stock closed at $26.60, up $3.86. Travelocity earlier reported pro forma income of 9 cents per share for its fourth quarter on gross travel bookings of $630.2 million.

The third publicly traded player in online Travel, Priceline.com , closed up 52 cents at $6.32. Priceline reports its earnings on Feb. 4.