Chinese Internet Space Sinks Again on Sohu.com Outlook

Selling pressure surfaced anew among Chinese Internet stocks Thursday morning after Sohu.com ( SOHU) posted sharply higher first-quarter earnings and revenue, but said results in the current period would fall short of Wall Street estimates.

The company earned $10.9 million, or 30 cents a share, in the latest first quarter compared with earnings of $4.6 million, or 12 cents a share, last year. Total revenue jumped 80% to $25.9 million, reflecting a 146% jump in advertising revenue to $11 million and a 50% jump in nonadvertising revenue to $14.9 million.

The company also authorized the repurchase of up to $30 million worth of its own common stock.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of 30 cents a share in the most recent quarter. For the second quarter, Sohu.com forecast earnings of 23 cents to 25 cents a share on revenue of $26.1 million to $27.1 million. Analysts had been expecting earnings of 29 cents a share on revenue of $28.2 million, according to Thomson First Call.

Thanks to that outlook, Sohu.com shares were recently down $2.65, or 14%, to $16.55 on the Instinet premarket session. That pegs its two-day decline at more than 25%, after the sector was crushed Wednesday when a Chinese government official warned about economic overexpansion. Sohu was trading for about $6.50 at the start of 2003.

Fellow China Internet outfit Sina.com ( SINA) was down $2.09, or 6.9%, to $28.26 on the Sohu news, bringing its two-day loss to 22%, while Netease ( NTES) was down $2.56, or 5.6%, to $43, putting the two-day loss at 14.3%.

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