February 28, 2019 / 1:13 PM / 8 months ago

Booking Holdings shares fall 10 pct after weak Europe outlook

Feb 28 (Reuters) - Shares of Booking Holdings Inc fell more than 10 percent in early trading on Thursday, after the U.S. online travel agency said it was seeing a sharp demand slowdown in Europe, its biggest market.

The company, which gets more than two thirds of its sales from Europe, said uncertainties related to Brexit and political issues in France lead it to forecast lower first quarter room bookings.

"While we acknowledge that many of the factors causing the slowdown are unrelated to BKNG's execution, there was little indication on the call that European travel demand would reaccelerate any time soon," Jefferies analyst Brent Thill said.

The company, whose brands include Booking.com, Priceline and Agoda, forecast first-quarter room bookings to grow between 6 percent and 8 percent, compared with a more than 13 percent growth recorded a year earlier.

Chief Executive Officer Glenn Fogel said the trade war between the United States and China was making conditions worse for European economies including Germany, whose slowing automotive industry was weighing on Europe's overall growth.

"People are uncertain," Fogel said, as they ponder over questions such as "Should I spend a lot of money right now or not? I don't know if there are going to be troubles traveling into Europe."

The weak outlook led multiple brokerages to cut price targets on Booking Holdings' stock, following the company's fourth-quarter results on Wednesday.

Cowen & Co cut its price target on the company's stock by $300 to $2,000, RBC Capital Markets by $275 to $2150, Wedbush by $100 to $2,000 and Jefferies by $40 to $1900.

"The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has significantly impacted booking trends among British consumers, as concerns over both passport requirements and currency devaluation led to travel-related concerns," Wedbush analyst James Hardiman said.

Up To Wednesday's close the company had risen 10.7 percent this year, compared with a 11 percent increase in the Dow Jones U.S. Consumer Services index. (Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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