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PointCast curries investor favor

The push vendor's financial picture looks rosy as it moves to add subscription fees later this year and contemplates an IPO.

PointCast chief executive Christopher Hassett told a roomful of investors today that the push technology vendor is rapidly growing its revenues and high gross margins.

Hassett, speaking at the annual Hambrecht & Quist technology conference, gave few hard numbers for the privately held company, but outlined accomplishments and plans sure to please investors as it looks towards a future initial public offering.

He said PointCast has sold its 500th "commercial" since it launched its network broadcast service a year ago and is preparing to introduce subscription fees later this year.

The company currently relies solely on advertising revenues. "We're rapidly growing our circulation and have been able leverage that growth with higher [advertising fees]," Hassett said, noting the company has 1.2 million viewers--greater than BusinessWeek magazine's readership.

And because the company does not "buy" its advertising revenues by paying for the content that is delivered through its channels, the gross margins from its advertising revenue model is up in the 80 percent range, he said.

Hassett briefly touched on plans for the next version of PointCast. He declined, however, to give a specific rollout date.

PointCast last month announced plans for its next-generation PointCast 2.0 client software, which will open its channels to all publications through its Connections feature.

Companies that have a Web server, for example, would be able to set up a channel to push content through, much like a public access channel on a broadcast network.

He added that information systems managers will be able to use this technology to control the information pushed to employees' desktops.

When asked about a move into wireless technology, Hassett said PointCast has no such current plans.

"We have not expanded into wireless because the Internet and intranets are growing so fast [and keeping us busy]," Hassett said.

The company earlier this month announced it had signed up more than 1,000 companies to broadcast information using its software, further securing its lead in the push technology arena.

PointCast was also recently rumored to be in merger talks with News Corporation. But Hassett discounted such talks and stressed the company's intentions are to remain independent and to continue its pursuit of an initial public offering at some later date.

Stephen Fowler, a senior vice president with Berkeley International Capital in San Francisco, investors in public and private companies, said his firm would likely be attracted to PointCast when it launches an IPO.

"We would have also been interested in investing in the company 12 months ago as a [venture capitalist], but we didn't get to see the deal," Fowler said.