When will Ask Jeeves Inc. (Nasdaq: ASKJ) be profitable? That may be the only answer the online search engine and interaction infrastructure provider doesn't know.
The company announced first quarter loss widened on booming revenue growth Monday, but did pay homage to profitability concerns. The company said it believes it will "achieve positive cash flow from operations without the need for future financing." First Call consensus expects a slight profit in the fourth quarter of 2001. Ask Jeeves also announced the appointment of a new chief financial officer.
Shares in the company closed at 28 Tuesday, far below their 52-week high of 190 1/2, as investors have hammered money-losing Net companies during the recent volatility. Ask Jeeves also reported a smaller than expected loss in January.
Net loss for the quarter was $18.9 million, or 59 cents a share, excluding amortization of deferred stock compensation, write-off of in-process technology and amortization of goodwill associated with acquisitions. Including these non-cash charges, net loss was $47.2 million, or $1.48 per share compared with a net loss of $5.9 million, or 33 cents a share, for the comparable period of 1999. First Call's consensus of 8 analysts was expecting a loss of 74 cents a share.
Revenue was $17.8 million, compared with $1.5 million for the same period last year, and compared with $10.9 million for the fourth quarter of 1999. During the first quarter of 2000, Web Properties and syndication revenue was $12.6 million, and corporate services revenue was $5.2 million.
Ask Jeeves also said Tom Low, 41, will become its new chief financial officer and senior vice president. Low succeeds Bruce Nakao, who is retiring from active management but will remain with the company in an advisory role.
The company said revenue growth and market penetration added a larger percentage gain to its bottom line for the quarter. The company also completed a follow-on offering in March, which raised about $120 million.
Ask Jeeves closed 38 deals with companies that will use its search for customers service. Its Web site also increased its reach to more than 11 million unique users. The company also said international business was booming, with Ask Jeeves UK answering more than 500,000 questions a day.
The company also acquired Direct Hit Technologies and inked a deal with Trillium Digital Systems to develop voice-over-IP (VoIP) software for its service. Though the company didn't account for widened losses, balance sheets show it doubled spending on product development, marketing, and general and administrative expenses.
Ask Jeeves' competitors include Lycos (Nasdaq: LCOS), Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO).