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Inktomi&#039s 4Q loss smaller than expected

Inktomi Corp. (Nasdaq: INKT) posted a smaller-than-expected loss in its fourth quarter Thursday, losing $4.9 million, or 9 cents a share, on sales of $26.2 million.

Its shares closed up 4 13/16 to 120 1/2 ahead of the earnings report.

First Call consensus expected the Foster City, Calif. company to lose 10 cents a share in the quarter.

The $26.2 million in sales represents a 217 percent improvement compared to the year-ago quarter when it lost $8.5 million, or 18 cents a share, on sales of only $8.3 million.

For the fiscal year, Inktomi lost $24.2 million, or 48 cents a share, on sales of $71.2 million. That's a 248 percent jump in sales versus fiscal 1998 when it lost $24.5 million, or 63 cents a share, on sales of $20.4 million.

"The year 1999 was a historical milestone for Inktomi as we completed our first fiscal year as a public company and moved closer to becoming synonymous with the Internet infrastructure," said CEO David Peterschmidt in a prepared release. "We look forward to continuing our work in building the Inktomi business and cementing our leadership position as the software supplier of the Internet infrastructure as we enter the new millenium."

In the quarter, Inktomi's search engine processed more than 2.9 billion queries, up 20 percent from the third quarter when it handled more than 2.4 billion queries.

Last quarter, Inktomi beat estimates by reporting a loss of $5.2 million, or 10 cents a share, on sales of $19.6 million.

The stock moved up to a 52-week high of 159 1/8 in April after trading at a low of 37 15/16 last October.

Thirteen of the 15 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.