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DoubleClick tops estimates

The online advertising and services provider beats lowered estimates in the quarter and makes only slight modifications to its 2001 expectations.

    DoubleClick on Thursday beat lowered estimates in the quarter and made only slight modifications to its 2001 expectations.

    The online advertising and services provider posted a profit of $216,000, or breakeven on a per share basis, on sales of $132.3 million.

    First Call consensus expected DoubleClick to lose 2 cents a share in the quarter following its profit warning last month. Analysts originally pegged it for a profit of 2 cents a share in the quarter.

    DoubleClick shares closed down $1.19 at $11.25 ahead of the earnings report; they moved up to $12.94 in after-hours trading.

    The $132.3 million in sales represents a 41 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it posted a loss of $1.7 million, or 2 cents a share, on sales of $93.7 million. Analysts were expecting fourth-quarter sales of around $127.4 million.

    Investors will likely be encouraged by the company's ability to transition from being primarily dependent on advertising sales to dot-com companies to deriving most of its profits from technology sales.

    In the fourth quarter, DoubleClick's advertising server business posted sales of $61.5 million, up 114 percent from the year-ago quarter. It served more than 185 billion ads in the quarter, up from 77 billion ads in the same period last year. Company executives said ad server sales were especially strong in Asia.

    Its media sales, essentially advertising sales to traditional and so-called New Economy companies, came in at $60.4 million, up 19 percent from the year-ago quarter but down 6 percent sequentially. Dana Serman, an analyst at Lazard Freres, predicted the company would post media sales of only $55 million and total sales of $127 million.

    DoubleClick Chief Executive Kevin Ryan was upbeat about 2001, saying the company will continue increasing its technology and data services businesses while relying less and less on advertising sales.

    "Companies are not changing from Internet advertising to radio or television," he said during a conference call. "We're seeing companies cut back on advertising sales overall. That's an important distinction."

    Heading into fiscal 2001, DoubleClick now expects to post a loss of between 7 cents to 9 cents a share in the first quarter, including a $2.5 million charge related to the development of its e-mail marketing business. Sales will come in between $110 million and $115 million, below the $118.2 million previously projected.

    For the year, the company sees sales improving 6 percent to 12 percent and expects earnings of 7 cents to 9 cents a share, including $5 million in charges related to the development of its e-mail business.

    Last quarter, DoubleClick met analysts' estimates when it posted a profit of $3.7 million, or 3 cents a share, on sales of $135.2 million.