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NBCi loses less than expected in 4Q

NBC Internet (Nasdaq: NBCI) reported lower-than-expected losses in its first quarter as a company.

After market close Thursday, the recently-formed media company posted a pro forma fourth quarter loss of $51.2 million, or $1.64 per share, excluding writedowns and special charges connected to the merger that formed NBCi. First Call's survey of five analysts predicted a loss of $1.96 per share for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles that include all items and prohibit NBCi from recognizing revenue prior to the Nov. 30 merger completion date, the company lost $68.2 million, or $2.18 per share, on revenue of $15.7 million.

Pro forma fourth quarter revenue increased to $27.3 million, a 163 percent improvement from $10.4 million in the year earlier period, when the NBCi companies lost a combined total of $24.6 million, or $1.21 per share. Fourth quarter revenue represented a 38 percent sequential improvement.

Gross margins in the fourth quarter to 67 percent from 62 percent in the third, largely because advertising grew as a percentage of revenue, CFO John Harbottle said. "I'm very pleased with our fourth quarter revenue growth," he said.

NBCi expects sequential revenue growth in the first quarter, but less than the 38 percent rate in the fourth, consistent with the company's previous guidance.

For the full year 1999, NBCi saw a pro forma net loss of $124 million, or $6.08 per share, on revenue of $74 million.

NBCi's quarterly conference call on Thursday afternoon did not feature a question-and-answer session because the company remains in a quiet period related to its recent public offering, the company said.

Shares of NBCi rose 3 to 99 in Thursday's trading prior to the quarterly report.>