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About.com gains on upgrade, outlook

About.com shares stormed up 9 1/16, or 31 percent, to 38 9/16 Friday, one day after it easily topped analysts' estimates in its first quarter.

In the quarter, About.com (Nasdaq: BOUT) posted a loss of $7.5 million, or 44 cents a share, on sales of $15.8 million.

Company officials told Wall Street that it expects to turn a profit in the second quarter of 2001.

Previously, analysts had expected the network of comprehensive vertical sites for users and marketers to turn a profit by the fourth quarter of 2001.

A survey of analysts' by First Call Corp. predicted About.com (Nasdaq: BOUT) would lose 58 cents a share in the quarter.

On Friday, E*Offering analyst Patrick Winton upgraded the stock from a "buy" recommendation to a "strong buy."

"Yesterday, About.com reported another stellar quarter," Winton said in a research note. "Given the company's strong financial results and accelerating business momentum, we are upgrading our rating and raising our estimates, and now project profitability for About.com in Q2 ༽ -- two quarters ahead of our previous expectations."

In the year-ago quarter, About.com posted a loss of $7.9 million, or 91 cents a share, on sales of $2.4 million.

"Our strong top line growth and rapidly improving bottom line puts us on track to reach profitability during the second quarter of 2001," said CEO Scott Kurnit in a prepared release. "I'm confident that each quarter of the coming year will provide more evidence that our platform is a source of new business opportunities that will enhance and diversify our revenue streams."

In the quarter, About.com saw its unique visitors jump to 14.4 million, up 14 percent from the 12.6 million it recorded in its fourth quarter.

Its registered-member base surged to 5.2 million, up 40.5 percent from 3.7 million last quarter. Also, it sold 268 sites this quarter, an 80 percent improvement from 149 in the fourth quarter.

Last quarter, About.com beat the Street, posting a loss of $8.3 million, or 57 cents a share, on sales of $13 million.

Its shares have hit the skids of late, falling from a 52-week high of 105 13/16 in March to below 30 Thursday.

All seven analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.