Priceline Profit Tops Analysts’ Estimates on Europe Growth Inc., the largest U.S. online travel agent, reported profit for the fourth quarter that topped analysts’ estimates as Europe’s economic recovery lifts hotel bookings.

Profit, excluding some items, was $8.85 a share in the period, the Norwalk, Connecticut-based company said in a statement yesterday. That exceeded the $8.30 average analyst projection, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue rose 29 percent to $1.54 billion, compared with analysts’ average prediction for $1.52 billion.

Chief Executive Officer Darren Huston, who succeeded 13-year company veteran Jeffery Boyd on Jan. 1, is tasked with maintaining growth at a company that’s expanded revenue by at least 20 percent for seven straight years. Priceline gained global market share during the European debt crisis, which started more than four years ago, even with the bulk of its business coming from its Amsterdam-based unit.

“Global travel remains choppy but we are encouraged by continuing improvement in Europe and stable growth in the Americas,” Brian Fitzgerald, an analyst at Jefferies LLC, wrote in a note to clients.

Priceline shares advanced 2.5 percent to $1,315.65 at the close in New York. The stock surged 87 percent last year, compared with the 30 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Fourth-quarter net income climbed to $378 million, or $7.14 a share, from $289 million, or $5.63, a year earlier, the company said.

Expedia Inc., Priceline’s smaller rival, reported revenue earlier this month that exceeded analysts’ estimates as hotel room nights booked in Europe increased at a faster pace than in recent quarters.

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