DoubleClick's ( DCLK) news certainly isn't bad for the rest of the online business, but just how good it is remains fodder for debate.

The advertising and marketing tools company, which spent most of 2004 failing to meet Wall Street's expectations, issued an upside suprise Thursday, saying that revenue and earnings for the quarter ended Dec. 31 would exceed forecasts. The preannouncement boosted DoubleClick's shares 6% Friday.

On Friday, at least one analyst indicated that DoubleClick's announcement helped support recently raised estimates for Internet advertising giants Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Google ( GOOG).

But another analyst cautioned that because DoubleClick had shown none of the business growth enjoyed by Yahoo! and Google throughout 2004, DoubleClick is of little value in forecasting those companies' prospects anytime soon.

DoubleClick's shares were trading at $7.87 Friday, up 47 cents.

In the spotlight Friday was DoubleClick's forecast of greater-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue from its Internet-focused TechSolutions segment. The company, which had previously forecast revenue in the range of $46 million to $50 million for the December quarter, raised that range Thursday afternoon to $55 million to $55 million.

Behind the $6 million to $7 million upside, says DoubleClick, are higher-than-projected revenue from its Performics, Ad Management and Email products. Those businesses assist companies in advertising on search engines, delivering advertisements to Web surfers and send marketing messages via email, among other functions.

Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto, who on Monday raised estimates for Yahoo! and Google , wrote Thursday evening that the better-than-expected TechSolutions growth supported those estimate increases for the larger companies. "We believe YHOO & GOOG will benefit to a greater extent from the strong yet competitive online retailing environment this holiday season that drove increased spending on both search and branded online advertising to acquire online shoppers," writes Noto. (Noto has an outperform rating on Yahoo! and Google, and an underperform rating on DoubleClick. His firm has had an investment-banking-services client relationship in the past 12 months with all three companies.)

Also encouraged by the results was J.P. Morgan analyst Imran Khan. "We bellieve strong online advertising trends also bode well for other online advertising companies such as Yahoo!, Google, CNet ( CNET) and iVillage ( IVIL)," writes Khan, "and as such, we continue to maintain our fundamentally positive views on online advertising." (Khan, whose firm has had J.P. Morgan Securities as a client within the past 12 months, has a neutral rating on the stock.)

American Technology Research analyst Mark Mahaney, however, minimizes the "derivative implications" of DoubleClick's preannouncement for other Internet advertising stocks. "It's hard to argue that there's much correlation between DCLK and the other stocks," he writes, "when DCLK posted organic revenue decline in September, while Yahoo!, Google, CNet and Ask Jeeves ( ASKJ) all had strong double-digit growth. So this is a positive, but a very muted one." (Mahaney has a hold rating on DoubleClick.)

Piper Jaffray's Safa Rashtchy remained unimpressed by DoubleClick's results. While Rashtchy allowed that the preannouncement could be an indicator that DoubleClick has hit bottom, he didn't believe it indicated DoubleClick could necessarily grow at the market rate. DoubleClick had a low bar to clear, says Rashtchy, who says the new guidance at best implies zero growth for delivering advertising.

"Furthermore," writes Rashtchy, "we believe that the fundamental issues facing DCLK (pricing pressure, lack of clear growth strategy and a multitude of unprofitable business lines) continue to pose serious challenge to the company." (Rashtchy has an underperform rating on DoubleClick.)

Also skeptical of the significance of the results was CIBC World Markets analyst Michael Gallant. The biggest driver of the stock, writes Gallant, is DoubleClick's hiring of the Lazard investment bank last year to potentially sell all or part of the company. Gallant, who previously estimated DoubleClick's takeout value at $8 a share, says the fourth-quarter numbers have the potential to raise that target price. But without additional information on the sustainability of the improvements, he writes, "it would be careless to revise the target at this time." (Gallant has a sector underperformer rating on DoubleClick.)

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