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Ask Jeeves' revenues surge

The natural language search Web site posts a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and a surge in revenues growth.

Ask Jeeves, the natural language search Web site, today posted a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and a surge in revenues growth.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Ask Jeeves said net loss for the fourth quarter came in at $23.7 million, or 87 cents a share, compared to net loss of $3.7 million, or 30 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding some charges related to its recent acquisition of Net Effect Systems, the online question-and-answer service said it lost $15.2 million, or 56 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by First Call expected the company to post a loss of 63 cents a share.

Revenues for the quarter were $10.9 million, vs. $562,000 in the same period a year earlier. For the company's fiscal year 1999, Ask Jeeves said revenues jumped to $22 million, compared to revenues of $800,000 in 1998.

During the quarter, Ask Jeeves closed 22 new corporate deals and expanded its presence in vertical markets, including financial services, technology and e-commerce, the company said in a statement. Ask Jeeves said the corporate version of its natural language question-and-answer service was acquired by clients such as Fidelity Investments, Network Solutions, Nike and uBid.com. The company also said it landed new customers, such as AirTouch Cellular and US West, Dex to further its market presence in the telecommunications space.

Also in the quarter, Ask Jeeves continued its technology expansion strategy when it agreed in November to acquire closely held Net Effect, a provider of real-time Web-searching services, for $288.1 million in stock. The acquisition lets Ask Jeeves connect consumers to answers on the Web through real-time communication with live experts, the company said.

This year, the company said it will steadily focus on its global expansion, a strategy Ask Jeeves announced late last year. Ask Jeeves said it will deliver country-specific versions of Ask.com worldwide. During the quarter, the company launched Ask Jeeves International, a subsidiary to focus on pursuing market opportunities outside of the United States.

Recently, the company, which is widely recognizable for its tuxedoed butler mascot named Jeeves, has been researching ways to deal with the large quantity of sex- and pornography-related queries submitted to its service.

Yesterday, Ask Jeeves confirmed it is evaluating a variety of options to address the issue, such as considering plans for separate sexually themed search results, possibly under a different character, Web site and brand. As reported, Ask Jeeves has already registered "asksex.com" and "askadult.com," among other domain names.