Media Sharks Circling

It hasn’t been a fun week to be, 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 “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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