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Expedia shares sink after 2024 revenue warning on softening air fares

Illustration shows Expedia app

By Pratyush Thakur

(Reuters) -Shares of Expedia Group closed down 18% on Friday, their biggest single-day drop in nearly four years, after the online travel firm said it expected 2024 revenue growth rates to moderate as air fares soften from post-pandemic highs.

The company late on Thursday also said Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern would step down from his position and be replaced by company insider Ariane Gorin.

Expedia shares snapped a four-day winning streak and dragged down those of other travel firms following the warning. Booking Holdings, Tripadvisor, and Airbnb fell between 1% and 4%.

"On a macro level, we expect travel demand to remain relatively healthy, but we expect growth rates across the world to decelerate," outgoing CEO Kern said on Expedia's earnings call.

Air travel revenue was also affected by the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max 9 fleet, leading to multiple cancellations impacting its Vrbo brand.

"Overall, we see an 'acceleration story' that is decelerating with a CEO transition now in play; near-term setup looks challenging," Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a note.

The company forecast its gross bookings growth for the current quarter to be in the low- to mid-single digits range and said it expects revenue growth to be in the mid-single digit.

"Expedia's first-quarter guidance may have underwhelmed investors, with revenue growth expected to be in the mid-single digits range compared to the 9% consensus estimate," CFRA analyst Siye Desta said.

However, the company reported a better-than-expected adjusted profit of $1.72 per share on the back of resilient demand during the holiday season. Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.68 per share, according to LSEG data.

Shares of Expedia trade about 12.35 times their forward profit estimates, well below rival Booking's 21.04 multiple.

(Reporting by Pratyush Thakur in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)