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Viant soars on earnings report

Shares of Viant soared more than 15 percent after the company posted fourth-quarter earnings that clobbered analysts' expectations.

Shares of Viant today soared more than 15 percent after the company posted fourth-quarter earnings that clobbered analysts' expectations.

Net earnings for the period were $3.7 million, or 14 cents per share, on revenues of $23.7 million, which were far above the 3 cents a share consensus estimate of analysts polled by First Call. In the same period in 1998, Viant reported a net loss of $3.2 million, or 21 cents a share, on revenues of $6.1 million.

In early trading, Viant shares surged $16, or 16 percent, to $116, touching a high of $119. The earnings report was issued after the close of regular trading yesterday.

The company competes in the lucrative services market against other Internet-focused firms, including Scient, Zefer, iXL, Proxicom and others that have been moving fast to nab business from older, more established traditional firms. Analysts predict nothing but huge growth and profitability for services and systems integration companies. Market research firm International Data Corp. projects the market to reach $78.6 billion by 2003.

In research notes, analysts at CS First Boston said they upped their price target to $125 a share and raised fiscal 2000 earnings estimates and revenue targets, calling Viant's results "the second straight blowout quarter" for the company. Analysts lifted fiscal 2000 earnings estimates to 37 cents per share from 25 cents and raised revenues targets to $125 million from $118 million. CS First Boston maintained a "strong buy" rating on the company's stock.

Last quarter, Viant surprised the Street by posting an unexpected profit of $1.6 million, or 6 cents a share. At the time, analysts polled by First Call projected the company to post a loss of 6 cents a share.

Viant chief executive officer Bob Gett attributed the better-than-expected report to strong demand for its services in the quarter, along with a significant number of new client deals. "We experienced another extremely successful quarter that enabled us to achieve profitable results for the full year 1999, far ahead of our original expectations," Gett said in a statement.

During the quarter, the company said it added ten new clients including Polaroid and Houghton Mifflin Company, along with start-ups iCollege and SportsYa to its customer base.

Earlier this week, Viant said its board approved a 2-for-1 stock split. The split of its common stock is expected to be paid on Feb. 23, 2000 to shareholders as of Feb. 8, the company said in a statement.