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CheckFree's progress misses mark

Despite growing revenue and shrinking losses, CheckFree fails to measure up to analysts' expectations for the quarter.

Despite missing analysts' expectations, CheckFree (CKFR) grew its revenue and shrunk its losses.

The e-commerce services and software provider reported a loss of $5.9 million, or 11 cents per share, compared to last year's fourth-quarter loss of $41.1 million, or $1.02 per share. The company fell slightly short of Wall Street's expectations of a 9-cent-per-share loss, according to First Call.

The company's revenues nearly doubled over the year, to $55.1 million from $29.4 million for the year-ago quarter.

"Earnings are not the key thing for the company right now," said an analyst who asked not to be identified. "What matters is that they have to be successful in electronic bill presentment."

Electronic bill presentment, as the name suggests, is the direct delivery of bills to customers online. CheckFree's challenge is to attract billers to its Web site, the analyst said. "They are making some headway there," he said.

CheckFree reiterated its prediction that it will break even by the quarter ending March 31, 1998, and reach profitability in the following quarter.

CheckFree's loss for the year was $161.8 million, or $3.44 per share, compared to a loss of $138.9 million, or $4.15 per share for fiscal 1996. Not counting the sale of its credit card processing business and research and development charges, the year's loss was 47 cents per share for fiscal 1997, compared to 50 cents per share for fiscal 1996.