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Official payments narrows loss in 4Q

Official Payments Corp. (Nasdaq: OPAY) reported a fourth quarter net loss of 42 cents a share, narrower that the 51 cents a share loss predicted by First Call. The company said its list of government clients has grown.

Shares in the provider of electronic payment options to government entities were up 3/4 to 44. The stock has been on a steep climb since the company's IPO in November.

Revenue for the fourth quarter was $1.63 million, up 75 percent from $935,000 for in 1998's fourth quarter. Operating loss, excluding the amortization of stock-based compensation was, $1.82 million. During 1998's comparable quarter, which did not have any amortization of stock-based compensation, operating income was $1,000.

Net loss for the quarter was $8.86 million, or 42 cents a share. This compares to a loss of $17,000, or a break even result, based on 15.0 million shares outstanding for 1998's fourth quarter.

Annual revenue was up 273 percent, to $8.84 million, from revenue of $2.37 million in 1998. Net loss for the year was $10.40 million, or 49 cents a share. First Call's consensus had predicted annual net loss to be 62 cents a share.

The addition of new clients, including the Internal Revenue Service, and the states of California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois and the District of Columbia boosted revenue, the company said. It grew its government client base by 77 percent to 467 over the year. The number of payment services provided to clients also increased by 53 percent to 570, the company said.

Official Payment said it expects growth ahead as it launches its first consumer advertising campaign during the weeks preceding April 17, tax day.