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Onsale loss disappointing

The retail and auction site's revenues barely grow compared with the third quarter, and the company loses 16 cents a share.

Internet retailer and auction site Onsale reported a fourth-quarter net loss in line with Wall Street expectations, but revenues were only slightly higher than the previous quarter.

The net loss totaled $3.1 million, or 16 cents per share, on revenues of $59 million for the three months ended December 31. Onsale's operating loss was higher, at $3.8 million.

Revenues barely grew compared with the third quarter's $57.8 million, but represented 79 percent increase over $33 million in the year-ago quarter.

The consensus estimate among Wall Street analysts who follow Onsale was a loss of 16 cents per share, according to First Call. Last month, the company said earnings would be lower than previously expected, causing many analysts to revise their estimates downward.

The fourth quarter was the last in which Onsale sold computer goods solely through auctions. The company said limited availability of excess and refurbished products in that category during the fourth quarter hurt sales, although revenues from sporting goods and consumer electronics rose.

Last month, Onsale began selling computers through its At Cost program, in which it charges consumers wholesale prices but adds shipping, transaction fees, and credit-card payment processing fees.

Daily page views on Onsale's site grew to an average of 1.2 million in the fourth quarter, with an average of 139,000 unique visitors per day. By the end of the quarter, 971,000 people had registered to bid, an increase of 18 percent from the previous quarter.

Onsale said 77 percent of the orders during the quarter came from repeat customers.

For the fiscal year, Onsale reported a net loss of $14.7 million, or 77 cents per share, on revenues of $207.8 million. Fiscal 1997 revenues totaled $89 million.