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Prodigy surpasses 4Q estimates on strong sales growth

    Prodigy Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: PRGY) topped analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Tuesday after it posted a loss of $29.8 million, or 46 cents a share, on sales of $67.1 million.

    First Call consensus expected the Internet service provider to lose 58 cents a share in the quarter.

    Prodigy shares closed up 3/4 to 25 5/8 ahead of the earnings report.

    In the quarter, Prodigy's Internet subscribers improved 197 percent from the year-ago quarter to 1.5 million accounts. Its Internet sales surged up 126 percent to $56.2 million, up from $24.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

    Gross profit margins jumped to 55 percent in the quarter, up from 35 percent in the fourth quarter of 1998.

    "This record performance is a direct result of the turnaround at Prodigy," said CEO Samer Salameh in a prepared release. "In 2000, Prodigy is committed to being the place to go for high speed Internet access."

    In the fourth quarter of 1998, Prodigy lost $17.2 million, or 38 cents a share, on sales of $34.7 million.

    For the fiscal year, Prodigy dropped $80.5 million, or $1.34 a share, on sales of $189 million compared to a loss of $65.1 million, or $1.60 a share, on sales of $136.1 million in fiscal 1998.

    Prodigy officials said it expects its customer accounts to grow to 2.4 million once the pending SBC Communications (NYSE: SBC) and FlashNet Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: FLAS) transactions are completed.

    Prodigy shares moved up to a 52-week high of 50 5/8 last February before falling to a low of 14 in August.

    Six of the eight analysts tracking the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

    First Call consensus expects it to lose $1.72 a share in fiscal 2000.