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Intuit loses less than expected in 4Q

The fourth quarter is always a weaker one for Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU) -- but it wasn't as weak as Wall Street expected this year.

In fiscal fourth quarter results released after market close Thursday, the Mountain View, Calif.-based vendor of finance software posted a pro forma net loss of $16.3 million, or 26 cents per share, not including acquisition-related costs, discontinued operations, restructuring charges, one-time marketing expenses and income related to stock sales.The fourth quarter and first quarters are normally Intuit's slowest periods, because they fall between holiday buying and tax preparation seasons.

First Call's survey of 6 analysts predicted a loss of 33 cents per share.

Fourth quarter revenue rose $149.9 million, a 28 percent gain year-over-year. Growth was largely fueled by demand for QuickBooks accounting program, which saw revenue equal to last year's fourth quarter, when Intuit launched a new version of software.

Intuit cited a PC Data survey that indicated QuickBooks now accounts for 85 percent of retail sales for accounting software. More than 2.7 million businesses use QuickBooks, Intuit said.

International sales rose 19 percent from a year ago. Intuit launched QuickBooks and Quicken in Germany during the fourth quarter. Canadian sales of Quicken remained strong.

The fourth quarter also saw continued growth in the company's Internet-based business. About $125.3 million, or 15 percent of Intuit's overall revenue in 1999, came from the Internet during the quarter, the company said. Internet business increased 157 percent from fiscal 1998.

Intuit expects to boost its overall revenues 15 percent in fiscal 2000, executives said, during an afternoon conference call with analysts. The company's growth rate, excluding revenue from recent acquisitions, has averaged 17.8 percent in the last three years.

Shares of Intuit slid 1 3/4 to 82 7/8 in Thursday's regular trading prior to the quarterly report. Among a dozen analysts surveyed by Zack's Investment Research, 11 rate Intuit a "moderate buy", and one maintains the equivalent of a "hold" rating on the stock.>