Critical Path falters despite solid outlook

Critical Path shares fell $3.94, or 8 percent, to $45.31 Thursday after it told analysts that it will meet estimates in its fourth quarter and in fiscal 2001.

Critical Path (Nasdaq: CPTH) said it will record fourth-quarter sales of between $54 million to $56 million and post a profit of 1 cent a share.

First Call Corp. consensus expects the provider of Internet messaging systems to earn 1 cent a share in the quarter.

During its analyst conference in New York, Critical Path also told analysts to expect fiscal 2001 sales to improve more than 95 percent, to between $300 million and $310 million.

It expects to return a pro forma profit of between 39 cents to 41 cents in the fiscal year, in line with current analyst estimates of 40 cents a share.

"The fourth quarter of 2000 is a pivotal one for Critical Path, one in which we join an elite group of profitable "new economy" companies," said CEO Doug Hickey in a prepared release. "We anticipate continued high demand for our product and service offerings, and leverage in our operations to deliver initial profitability in Q4 2000 and increases in our profitability in 2001."

Last quarter, Critical Path posted a pro forma loss of 14 cents a share on sales of $44.9 million.

The stock moved as high as $119.50 in March before falling to a low of $26 in May.

All 17 analysts following the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."