Yahoo beats Wall Street expectations, raises 2002 targets

Thursday, January 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Shares of Yahoo! Inc. surged after the Internet bellwether showed fourth-quarter results that surpassed Wall Street forecasts and the company raised its targets for 2002.

The positive report Wednesday afternoon came as president and chief operating officer Jeff Mallett, who joined Yahoo in 1995 as employee No. 12, said he would step down in April.

Mallett, who was rumored to have coveted the chief executive position that went to Terry Semel last year, said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and two young daughters and to pursue outside business opportunities.

Yahoo reported its fifth consecutive quarter in the red, losing $8.7 million, or 2 cents per share, on revenue of $188.9 million in the three months ending Dec. 31. In the same period in 2000, Yahoo lost $97.8 million, or 17 cents per share, on sales of $310.9 million.

Excluding restructuring and other one-time charges, Yahoo said it would have earned $16.7 million, or 3 cents per share. Analysts had been expecting 1 cent per share, on revenue of $170.7 million, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

The news pushed Yahoo shares up 92 cents, more than 5 percent, to $18.79 in after-hours trading Wednesday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The trend continued in early trading Thursday, with shares up $1.90, or more than 10 percent, at $19.77.

The quarter capped an eventful year at the company, which moved into new headquarters in Sunnyvale; saw Internet advertising plummet with the economy; staged two rounds of layoffs; dealt with the departures of several key executives; realigned its business structure under Semel; and pulled off a last-minute, $436 million bid for

``We took our lumps, went through a rebuilding, and we're beginning to see a little bit of a return on that,'' said Susan Decker, the chief financial officer.

In 2001, Yahoo lost $92.8 million, or 16 cents per share, on revenue of $717.4 million. Those marks were well off the company's record showing in 2000, when it earned $70.8 million, or 12 cents per share, on revenue of $1.1 billion.

But Yahoo raised its targets for this year. Executives predict earnings of 1 or 2 cents per share in the current quarter, excluding charges, on revenue between $160 million and $180 million. Analysts had been forecasting 1 cent per share and sales of $163.8 million, according to First Call.

Yahoo also predicted 2002 revenue would rise to between $750 million and $800 million, with earnings excluding charges of 7 to 10 cents per share. Those estimates, which exclude potential increases from the addition of HotJobs, surpass the current consensus forecast of 9 cents per share and sales of $735 million.

Semel said he has a ``quiet confidence'' about Yahoo's position and is seeing signs the advertising market has stabilized.

Even without an economic turnaround, Semel expects Yahoo's results to improve as the company offers new packages of subscription services to its 219 million registered users, ramps up sales of listings on its search pages and reaps the benefits of improved relationships with ad agencies.

``Strategically, the company is better positioned today than it was positioned at any point in 2001,'' said CIBC World Markets analyst John Corcoran, who cautions that Yahoo still must prove its latest deals, such as a partnership to provide high-speed Internet access with SBC Communications Inc., will be fruitful.

``It looks like '02 will be a return to growth.''