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CyberCash, First Virtual lose big

Internet payments company CyberCash saw its stock hit a new low today after reporting poor earnings. But rival First Virtual Holdings' shares barely budged despite its own losses.

Internet payments company CyberCash (CYCH) saw its stock hit a new low today after yesterday's earnings report, despite beating Wall Street analysts' estimates by a few pennies.

Meanwhile, rival First Virtual Holdings' (FVHI) stock barely budged in spite of its large reported losses.

CyberCash closed Friday at 15-1/4, off 1-1/8 from yesterday's close. First Virtual finished at 9, down just 1/16.

CyberCash reported $50,646 in revenue for the quarter ended December 31 and lost $8 million, 75 cents a share, better than the Wall Street consensus of a 78-cent loss. Only $20,000 of CyberCash's revenue came from its core business of processing electronic credit card transactions; the rest was from consulting.

"In 1996, we made the transition from a start-up enterprise to a public company that is widely regarded as a leader in our industry," Bill Melton, CyberCash president and CEO, said in a statement. But he acknowledged, "Internet commerce has been slower to develop than some had predicted."

Earlier this month CyberCash stock tumbled 21 percent after Hambrecht and Quist, the investment bank that brought CyberCash public last year, downgraded its recommendation because Internet commerce has grown more slowly than expected. H&Q said CyberCash would not meet H&Q's projection of $25 million in revenue in 1997.

For calendar 1996, CyberCash lost $26.5 million on $127,000 in revenue. The company had $33.7 million in cash at year's end, enough to carry it about four quarters at its current rate of losses.

First Virtual, which offers an online payment system that does not require sending credit card data over the Internet, likewise reported major losses for the fourth quarter, losing $4.7 million or 54 cents a share on just $198,000 in revenues.

First Virtual also announced today that its Internet payment system will be a Java cassette included in the Java Commerce Toolkit, due to ship this quarter from the JavaSoft unit of Sun Microsystems.

First Virtual's revenues were 78 percent from revenues of $111,000 in 1995's fourth quarter, but revenue for the 1996 quarter included $113,000 in consulting revenues received from a strategic partner. The company lost $612,000, or 7 cents a share for 1995's comparable quarter.

For calendar 1996, First Virtual's revenues increased 250 percent to $696,000 from $198,000 for the year ended December 31, 1995. Net loss for 1996 was $10.7 million, or $1.25 a share, compared a $2.3 million loss, or 30 cents a share, for 1995.

First Virtual had $17.1 million in cash as of December 31, mostly from its IPO last year, sufficient funds to carry it 3-1/2 quarters at its current rate of losses. In addition to its payment system, First Virtual has developed its VirtualTag technology for animated Web banner ads.