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FreeMarkets posts narrower-than-expected loss

The company, which conducts online auctions and marketplaces, reports a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss but a decrease in total revenues from key clients.

FreeMarkets today reported a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss but saw a decrease in total revenues from key clients..

Pittsburgh, Penn.-based FreeMarkets, which conducts online auctions and marketplaces for industries, said losses were $8.6 million, or 27 cents per share, on revenues of $7.8 million. That compares with earnings of $126,000, or break-even results, on revenues of $3 million in the same period in 1998.

Analysts expected FreeMarkets to lose 31 cents per share, according to a survey by First Call.

In afternoon trading, FreeMarkets shares plunged nearly 16 percent to $229.

While the company added 18 new clients in the quarter, including Raytheon, FreeMarkets disclosed earlier this month that its large client GM will cancel its contract. In the year-ended Dec. 31, 1999, sales to GM represented 15 percent of the company's total revenues. For the quarter, that amount decreased to 10 percent, the company said in a statement.

The company's GM woes come in part because the automaker has shifted its business to FreeMarkets rival Commerce One. In November, GM said it will join Commerce One in creating a business-to-business e-commerce site called GM TradeXchange and will take a 19.9 percent stake in Commerce One.

FreeMarkets also said revenues from United Technologies, another major client, declined from 34 percent to 22 percent of the company's total revenues.

FreeMarkets said it does not expect the cancellation of its agreements with General Motors to have a "material impact" on its revenues or results of operations in 2000.

Also during the quarter, FreeMarkets said it conducted online auctions for nearly $1.4 billion worth of direct materials, commodities and services, representing an increase of 275 percent over the same period a year ago.