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Tech Industry

Online car dealers put pedal to metal

    Autoweb.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AWEB) and Autobytel.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ABTL) both posted smaller-than-expected losses in their fourth quarter on record sales.

    Autoweb.com posted a loss of $8.4 million, or 24 cents a share, on sales of $11.6 million.

    First Call consensus expected it to lose 36 cents a share in the quarter.

    Ahead of the earnings report, Autoweb.com shares closed up 1/16 to 10 1/2.

    "This year was important for Autoweb.com," said CEO Dean DeBiase in a prepared release. "We experienced record traffic in the fourth quarter, which grew more than 76 percent over the prior quarter."

    For the year, Autoweb.com lost $18.2 million, or 56 cents a share, on sales of $32.8 million compared to a loss of $12.4 million, or 41 cents a share, on sales of $13 million in fiscal 1998.

    Company officials said its average daily page views improved 160 percent from the year-ago quarter.

    Its shares roared up to a 52-week high of 50 in March before falling to a low of 8 1/16 in November.

    Four of the five analysts tracking the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."

  • Autobytel.com also checked in with a smaller-than-expected loss, losing $4.9 million, or 27 cents a share, on sales of $12.4 million.

    First Call consensus expected it to lose 32 cents a share in the quarter.

    Autobytel.com shares closed up 1/16 to 12 3/8 ahead of the earnings report.

    "By achieving record growth while controlling costs, we are making great progress in building the long term value of our business," said CEO Mark Lorimer in a prepared release. "We continue to outperform all other online car buying services as we set the standard for serving consumers and providing innovative ways for our dealers and strategic partners to build their Internet business."

    The $12.4 million in sales represents a 70 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it lost $3.9 million, or 46 cents a share, on sales of $7.3 million.