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Earnings Roundup: Autobytel, Lam easily hurdle estimates

Autobytel.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ABTL) lost 7 cents per share less than analysts expected for the second quarter.

In results released after market close Thursday, the online network of automobile dealers reported a net loss of $6 million, or 33 cents per share. First Call's survey of 3 analysts predicted a per share loss of 40 cents for the quarter ended June 30.

Second quarter sales rose to $9.2 million, a 70 percent improvement year-over-year and a 15 percent increase sequentially. The number of dealers paying to join Autobytel.com's service increased 12 percent to 2,560 from 2,865 in the first quarter, said Mark Lorimer, president and CEO of Autobytel.com.

Service fees increased 140 percent sequentially and generated 11 percent of Autobytel.com's revenue, Lorimer said.

During the second quarter, Autobytel.com generated 512,000 buy requests, up 5 percent sequentially and up 74 percent year-over-year. That contrasts with the website's historical trend of a second quarter decline in purchase requests, Lorimer said. "Our ability to overcome that seasonality this year demonstrates even greater success in reaching our target market: the serious car buyer," he said.

Thirty-five percent of those buy requests, compared to 20 percent a year ago, came directly to Autobytel.com's site, rather than being referred there by a Web portal.

In a separate announcement Thursday, Autobytel.com said it agreed to buy privately-held W.G. Nichols and a related company, Marine Information Technology. Autobytel.com will pay $13 million cash and issue almost 254,000 shares of stock for the companies. W.G. Nichols publishes the Chilton series of do-it-yourself car repair manuals. Marine Information publishes repair and maintenance manuals for watercraft.

"This acquisition enables us to accelerate our penetration into the ownership portion of the vehicle life cycle, the cornerstone of which is service, repair and parts," Lorimer said.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 1999.

Other companies reporting quarterly results:

  • Lam Research Inc.
  • (Nasdaq: LRCX)

    Add Lam to the ranks of resurgent chip-related companies.

    After five consecutive quarters of losses, the Fremont, Calif.-based maker of wafer fabrication equipment raked in more than twice as much as analysts expected for the company's fiscal fourth quarter. Lam reported net income of $11.3 million, or 28 cents per share. First Call's survey of 19 analysts predicted a per-share profit of 12 cents.

    Fourth quarter revenues increased 38 percent sequentially to $210.9 million. Asian sales not including Japan led the way with a 39 percent gain, followed by North America with 38 percent growth.

    Lower materials costs and improved economies of scale as orders rose boosted Lam's gross margin to 38.8 percent, compared to 35.5 percent in March.

    "We are very pleased with the progress we have made," said James W. Barley, chairman and CEO. "In particular, we have significantly strengthened our etch market position. ... Our product and customer support capability, combined with the improving industry fundamentals should allow the company to further benefit from the opportunities ahead.''

    New orders rose from the previous quarter, giving Lam a book to bill ratio better than 1 to 2.

  • Modem Media . Poppe Tyson Inc.
  • (Nasdaq: MMPT)

    The online marketer and website developer reported second quarter earnings of $581,000, or 5 cents a share, far better than the loss of 6 cents a share predicted by First Call's survey of 3 analysts

    Second quarter revenues rose to $16 million, up 53 percent year-over-year, and up 30 percent sequentially. Margins after salary and benefits rose to 44 percent from 29 percent in the year ago period, and 31 percent in the first quarter.

    On an annual basis, revenue from Modem Media's top 10 accounts increased 33 percent sequentially in the second quarter, to $5 million from $3.8 million, said G.M. O'Connell, chairman and CEO.

    "Demand for our e-business services is robust and clients continue to increase spending on a global basis, driving our organic growth," O'Connell said.>