Internet health care company

Healtheon/WebMD

(HLTH)

on Tuesday posted a first-quarter bigger-than-expected operating loss as merger costs offset a steep jump in revenues.

The Atlanta-based company said its operating loss before charges was $85.9 million, or 49 cents a share, compared with a loss of $73 million, or 42 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Wall Street had expected the company to lose 48 cents a share, based on a survey conducted by

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

Healtheon/WebMD reported a net loss of $431.5 million, or $2.47 a share, compared with a loss of $18.6 million, or 30 cents a share, in the first quarter of 1999.

Revenues for the quarter rose 275% to $65.9 million. High merger costs, however, prevented strong sales growth from trickling down to the bottom line. The company said the financial results reflected the merger between

Healtheon

and

WebMD

as well as the acquisitions of

MedE America

,

Medcast

and

Kinetra

.

Healtheon/WebMD said that after completing pending acquisitions, it could post earnings, excluding charges, as early as the fourth quarter of 2001 and have revenues of more than $1 billion for that year. The company added that it did not support a recent suggestion by one of its directors that these goals could be reached any earlier.

"The rest of 2000 will be focused on executing the fundamentals of our business model we announced to our shareholders in 1999, including closing of our announced mergers and completing the integration of those organizations into our company," Mike Long, Healtheon/WebMD's chairman, said in a statement.

Consumer page views increased to 109 million for the quarter. The company said that a

Media Metrix

study indicated that the number of monthly unique visitors increased 70% to 2.9 million in March from 1.7 million in December.

Healtheon/WebMD said it has more than $1 billion cash.

Shares of Healtheon/WebMD, which have been languishing close to their 52-week low of 15 5/8 recently, were up 5/16, or 1%, at 20 1/16 in early trading Tuesday. (Healtheon finished Tuesday trading up 1/4, or 1%, at 20.)