Updated from 5:45 p.m. ET

Exodus Communications


is missing the good old days of the dot-com boom almost as much as the 13-year-old former chief financial officer of



The Web-hosting firm posted a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss after the close of trading of Wednesday. But earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization came in lower than analysts had been expecting. More importantly, Exodus lowered its guidance for 2001 sales, citing the nagging matter of its small, dot-com customers running out of money.

There's a reason that dot-com weakness would hurt Exodus. It runs Web sites -- managing warehouses in which its customers store their servers and offering maintenance services and network connections for those servers. Like many other technology stocks, shares of Exodus have been hit hard in recent months as doubts about the viability of the dot-com economy -- many of whose participants are Exodus customers -- have intensified. Its stock has fallen more than 60% since last September, and is more than 70% off its 52-week high.

"Despite the continuing growth of our enterprise customer base, we are adopting a cautiously optimistic outlook for our business in 2001,'' said CEO Ellen Hancock in a statement accompanying the company's earnings release. The company's caution led it to reduce its pro-forma 2001 sales forecast to a range of $2 billion to $2.3 billion. Previous guidance stood at $2.4 billion. (Pro-forma guidance includes estimated results from


, which Exodus recently acquired from

Global Crossing

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Exodus said that its customer churn rate rose to an annualized 3%, up from less than 2% in the prior quarter. That means that the annualized value of the accounts that Exodus lost in the fourth quarter represented about 3% of the money the company made in 2000.

Excluding the amortization of goodwill and intangible assets, it posted a loss of $55.8 million, or 13 cents per share. That's 3 cents narrower than the loss expected by analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

. Meanwhile, revenue for the quarter totaled $280.4 million, at the top end of the company's range of guidance and edging past analysts' estimates. That figure is up 22% from the prior quarter and 177% above year-ago levels.

However, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization totaled $26.5 million for the fourth quarter, about $5 million below the figure analysts were looking for. Exodus had EBITDA of $20.2 million in the previous quarter and a $16.7 million EBITDA loss in the fourth quarter of 1999.

Analysts seemed to take the forecast shortfall in stride, many of them having already trimmed their 2001 sales estimates below the company's official guidance. "It's just a reflection of current market conditions," said

Credit Suisse First Boston

analyst Tim Newington. "With the dot-com shakeout, the market right now is more difficult than it was." (His firm hasn't done underwriting for the company.)

Investors are seeing that now. In anticipation of a strong report, Exodus had gained 8.4% in regular trading to close at $28.19. The stock was lately traded at $25.88 on