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edged past estimates it supplied in early December, and said that an on-again, off-again merger was on again.

The pay-per-click search engine company -- a distant competitor to



Overture Services and Google, the paid-search advertising leaders -- reported $21 million in revenue for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31. That number was up 57% from the prior year and $700,000 ahead of the guidance it gave analysts Dec. 10.

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Net income, based on generally accepted accounting principles, amounted to $3.5 million, or 15 cents per diluted share. That nosed past both the December guidance of 14 cents and the year-earlier figure of 14 cents, which reflected a lower tax rate.

Separately, said it had signed an amended agreement to merge with Espotting Media, a privately held European pay-per-click search engine operator.

The two companies originally announced a merger last June, but said in September that it was renegotiating the terms of the agreement.

For all the time that has elapsed since the original deal was announced, the new terms don't appear to be radically different. The companies say that in the new deal, Espotting shareholders will receive a total of $170 million in cash and shares, based on's recent stock price. More than seven months ago, the original deal was said to value Espotting at $163 million.

This time around, the cash portion of the cash-and-stock deal is for $20 million, down from $27 million the last time around. As before, the final cash payout depends on Espotting's financial condition at the time of the transaction's closing.'s shares, which are more than double their 52-week low, closed at $19.44 Monday, unchanged. In after-hours trading, once the results and deal were announced the company's shares fell 34 cents.

Excluding possible results from an Espotting acquisition, projected 2004 revenue of $95 million, up 32% from 2003. The company projects 60 cents in earnings per share for the year, up 13%.