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Microsoft investment sends Audible soaring

Shares of the spoken-word digital audio company jump 103 percent after the software giant increases its investment by $10 million.

    Shares of Audible more than doubled Friday after Microsoft increased its investment in the company by $10 million.

    Audible's stock closed up 91 cents, or 103 percent, at $1.78 on a volume of 3.6 million shares. In earlier trading, it hit $2.25, still far short of its 52-week high of $16.12.

    The Wayne, N.J.-based company sells spoken-word audio downloads for personal computers, handhelds and portable MP3 players.

    Under the deal, Microsoft has agreed to increase its stake in the company with a $10 million investment. The software giant previously invested in the company in 1999. The amount of the initial investment was not disclosed.

    Microsoft's new investment is meant to support Audible's development of spoken-audio content and technology using Microsoft Windows Media technologies. The companies also intend to co-market the new products to consumers and corporate customers.

    Earlier in the week, the Audible released its fourth-quarter and full-year results.

    For the quarter, the company reported a net loss of $7.17 million, or 25 cents per share, excluding noncash amortization. The loss was wider than the year-earlier loss of $5.37 million, or 18 cents a share.

    Total net revenue rose to $1.87 million for the fourth quarter, compared to the $420,263 taken in during the year-ago period.

    For full-year 2000, the company lost $32.27 million, or $1.14 per share, compared to a loss of $13.47 million, or 85 cents per share, a year earlier. Total net revenue was $4.55 million, up from $1.74 million reported for fiscal 1999.

    Net cash used in the fourth quarter dropped $4.2 million from $4.7 million in the previous quarter.

    The company also said it reconfigured its strategic and marketing alliance alliance with Amazon.com, under which Audible provides digital spoken-word products to Amazon customers.

    Audible's future minimum cash commitment to the deal was cut to $2.5 million through 2002, down from the company's original $10 million commitment.