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CNet hurdles 4Q expectations

    CNet (Nasdaq: CNET) beat analyst forecasts in the fourth quarter.

    After market close Thursday, the online provider of technology news and information reported a fourth quarter net loss of $29.8 million, or 40 cents per share. First Call's survey of 14 analysts predicted a loss of 44 cents per share for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

    ZDNet competes with CNet.

    Including investment gains and losses and writedowns for goodwill, CNet saw a fourth quarter profit of $356 million, or $4.18 per share. CNet recorded $612 million in equity gains related to the Snap portal's absorption by NBC Internet (Nasdaq: NBCI).

    Fourth quarter revenue increased to $38.3 million, a 95 percent gain year-over-year and 35 percent improvement sequentially. CNet Online revenues came in at $35.8 million, nearly double year-over-year. CEO Halsey Minor credited the company's technology products marketplace for generating strong business during the holiday season.

    The company cited Media Metrix statistics showing it saw the fastest year-over-year growth for a technology content provider in December, when visitors rose 49 percent from the same period in 1998. Nielsen/NetRatings figures showed CNet led tech information sites with 9.6 million users.

    For the full year, CNet recorded an operating loss of $46.1 million on revenue of $112.3 million. That loss figure excludes amortization, interest income and investment gains. Including all events, CNet earned $417 million, or $5.05 per share.

    CNet predicted break even operating results for the full year 2000, excluding writedowns, on revenue of about $200 million. The company expects to start generating an operating profit in the fourth quarter.

    At the end of 1999, CNet's cash and marketable securities exceeded $1 billion, including more than $600 million from 12.7 percent stake of NBCi. CNet's total investments in six publicly-traded companies was valued at about $870 million at the end of the fourth quarter.

    That kind of warchest gives CNet investment flexibility, Minor said. Last month, CNet bought mySimon.com.

    Shares of CNet gained 1 1/4 to 52 in Thursday's regular trading, prior to the quarterly report.>