Expedia Earnings Call Insights: EBITDA Growth Outlook and Marketing Spend

Expedia, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

EBITDA Growth Outlook

Ross Sandler – Deutsche Bank: Two questions, Mark can you talk about the cadence of EBITDA growth in 3Q and 4Q I think most investors are struggling to get to back up to the mid-to-high single digit growth rate given the current trajectory and the comments about July. So what gives you the confidence? Then Dara it seems like Booking.com is getting more aggressive in every marketing channel in the U.S. not just TV but within Kayak, within TripAdvisor, within Google. So what can you do to offset some of these dynamics and medium term? Thanks.

Mark Okerstrom – Executive Vice President and CFO: So with respect to EBITDA growth for the rest of the year. Just as a reminder our expense comps get significantly easier throughout the year. Cost of sales of the VA impact basically disappears sales and marketing in the first half was very difficult comps as last year, Brand Expedia was ramping up, we’ll be comping over that in Q3 and Q4. G&A gets a lot easier and then also technology and content starts to slow as well. So the expense comps get just particularly easier and then revenue is something that is as we said we think it is sustainable over time and I will remind you too that at the time of our last conference call we spoke about the Hotwire organic forecast takedown being replaced by trivago. And just a reminder that Hotwire is much more of a normal seasonal business and therefore has particular impact, had particular impacts in this quarter. trivago given the phase they’re in right now is just much more back end loaded. So, the organic business was already backend loaded and trivago basically extenuates that.

Dara Khosrowshahi – President and CEO: Yeah, Ross as far as Booking.com and their competitiveness, they’ve been competitive in those channels for some period of time, it’s nothing new and we’ve talked about the global travel opportunity being $1 trillion opportunity and even in the U.S., our business represents close to 6% of U.S. room nights. That leaves plenty of growth for many, many players, and I would say that we haven’t seen any particular change in Booking.com’s competitive activity within the Trip channel or SEM. Where we have seen a change is definitely the offline channel and at offline channel with booking coming in with TripAdvisor coming in and with trivago advertising as well, it’s tougher for some of our brands to get the kind of share of voice that we’ve had in the past, even if we up our spend. So, from that standpoint the direct channel, the brand marketing is definitely becoming more competitive. One of our own brands, trivago is one of the entrants there and we’re seeing really, really good success in the U.S., but in the other channels, the real issue for us in TripAdvisor was a switch from popup windows to metasearch and that hurt us in the near-term although we’re seeing some good constructive trends as we optimize that channel and in search engine marketing, if anything, for example for Brand Expedia, the SEM channel has been a significantly positive channel, as we have increase conversion and as a result we’re able to market more effectively. So, it’s really the brand channel where we’re seeing a competition and the change in the marketplace.

Marketing Spend

Thomas White – Macquarie: I guess, I’m trying to reconcile the acceleration in the marketing spend a bit more with the deceleration in the hotel revenue. You guys talked a little bit about the impact of trivago, but the spend on TripAdvisor was down year-over-year. I guess, can you guys just talk a little bit more about where you are spending or where you’re shifting dollars if they’re not going to trip and maybe comment on the relative ROI differentials you’re seeing between some of the key variable marketing platforms, be it sort of traditional search or metasearch?

Mark Okerstrom – Executive Vice President and CFO: So, generally the trip spend was a significant takedown this quarter and it really evolved throughout the quarter, we are positive year-on-year in April and then significantly more negative through May and June. That spend essentially was replaced with increases in both trivago as well as increases at eLong, that essentially filled the gap there, and that spend that at least in period revenue is a little bit less efficient. So, that’s probably the biggest story. I would also say that again, towards the end of May and into June as we saw more pressure in the brand marketing channel again with TripAdvisor, trivago, Priceline, Hotwire all of the players in the marketplace, that did impact a bit or direct type in traffic, which is really the most efficient traffic and so that creates a bit of a mix shift if you will into more expensive channels. Just to give you a little bit of the numbers I said in my script, trivago itself added 11 points of growth to sales and marketing this quarter.

A Closer Look: Expedia Earnings Cheat Sheet>>