SNOWBIRD, Utah -- The shares of


(ATHM) - Get Report

are off more than 70% from their 52-week high. But that ski slope of a stock chart didn't dampen the feistiness of CFO Ken Goldman on Wednesday morning.

In an informal Q&A with investors after Goldman's slide show, he took the offensive a little bit against

America Online


. But mostly he challenged the people who would undervalue his company, a Web portal that also is in the midst of heated competition to speed up Internet access.

"They think if open access would come overnight, we wouldn't be able to compete. And that's baloney," he said. Sure, there's high-speed cable Internet access company

Road Runner

, owned in part by

Time Warner



But AOL, with its limited digital subscriber line high-speed phone service, and Internet service providers like MindSpring (now part of



, don't have the infrastructure or experience to compete, he suggested. "Who else is out there in broadband?" he asked. "No one. No one."

He continued, "We've all had our own operational issues. But you learn from that and move forward. The other guys haven't had their teething pains yet."

At different points in the morning, Goldman said he believed the company would exceed projections that it would add 2.5 million to 2.8 million high-speed subscriptions this year. He reiterated earlier statements that the company would be expanding into DSL access.

He called AOL's recent Capitol Hill open-access announcements "politically correct," and said they wouldn't change Road Runner's current exclusivity agreements with cable operators, nor Excite@Home's. And, in response to an investor question, he said that



(T) - Get Report


cable systems' reported sluggishness in adding high-speed @Home subscribers was a thing of the past. "They're kicking butt," he said.

Goldman got a measure of support from rival Road Runner -- specifically, Meredith Flynn-Ripley, vice president of corporate development, who was at the conference. "People ignore the value of their respective portals and backbones when they value the companies, looking only at their carriage agreements," she said. "There is a basic misunderstanding about assets that Road Runner and @Home hold," she added.

"Everything he says about the network rings true," said a buy-sider who doesn't own any Excite@Home stock. "It ain't easy to duplicate. There's a lot of value there."

At Wednesday's close, the stock was up 2 1/16 to 30 3/4, or 7.14%.

Perks Come With a Price

While the slope-side venue of the

Chase H&Q plaNET.wall.street

conference is a major draw for the event, it can be a hindrance as well.

Investors lined up to hear

Kana Communications


, the San Mateo, Calif.-based provider of email management services, give its presentation this morning. Instead, they got an empty conference room and a little extra time to call into the office and return email.

As a late winter storm pummeled the Cliff Lodge and surrounding slopes with snow, Chase H&Q representatives said they hadn't been able to get in touch with Kana, suggesting the company's absence might be weather-related. Kana representatives could not be reached for comment.

Investors didn't seem to hold the no-show against the company, though.

Wit Soundview

initiated coverage of the stock this morning with a buy and 200 price target, and by Wednesday's close the stock soared to 163 1/2, up 28 points or 20.59%.

Let it snow.

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The Big Dogs Still Hunt

If there is any lesson to be learned from this conference, says Genni Combes, e-commerce analyst with

Chase H&Q

, it is that the big are still getting bigger.

And, she adds, in the Internet sector, early leads become wider leads. "The one thing that sticks out from this conference so far is what


(EBAY) - Get Report

had to say," says Combes. "A year ago, eBay said their gross merchandise sales were 15 times larger than that of the next biggest competitor,



. So this year, eBay's gross merchandise sales were 22 times Yahoo!'s. So I think it's clear that this is a good time to buy some of the leaders."

Looking for someone in a good mood at the conference? It was easy if you sat down for Tuesday evening's dinner with Joseph McNay, chairman of

Essex Investment Management

, who's been investing in tech stocks since the 1960s.

How good a mood? Well, here's a taste of what he has to be happy about: When

(AMZN) - Get Report

went public two years ago, he spent a busy two weeks buying up all the stock he could. Back then, it was trading at a split-adjusted price below $6. Now it's above 60; as of Dec. 31, 1999, Essex owned more than a million shares. And that's a relatively small Internet holding for the firm.

McNay said he liked the deal in which


(VRSN) - Get Report

is set to buy

Network Solutions


, both of which his firm held as of its most recent filings. "It's highly synergistic and beneficial to both," he says.

McNay doesn't exactly see a ducky future for all Internet stocks -- online retailers, for instance. "It was the easiest place for too many companies to enter too quickly," he says. "We're now going to see a shakeout as we go through the next year," he says. "It'll be a good business for the survivors."

How does the firm explain the decline of Yahoo!, a major holding of the firm?

"It's very simple. It's the

AOL/Time Warner

effect," says Essex Vice President Pamela Cutrell. Investors expect Yahoo! will feel compelled to go out and buy a media company, diluting its growth, she says. "I actually don't think they're going to do it," she says. "I think they're going to partner."

LifeMinders Goes B2B

The stock of direct-marketing firm


has more than doubled in the past two weeks. So it wasn't shocking to see it move even higher in the wake of the company's



In a presentation to a roomful of attentive buy-siders, CEO Stephen Chapin Jr. uttered a few magic words for Internet investors. In addition to its core business of sending emails and ads to Internet users who have volunteered personal information to LifeMinders, the company is getting in a new line: B2B outsourcing.

Chapin said the company wasn't disclosing names of B2B customers, or the math of the deals just yet. But it looks like somebody isn't waiting for the details; the stock had spiked nearly 12% Wednesday afternoon.

That means the company will license its technology to other Web-based companies so they can manage email marketing to their own customer bases. LifeMinders will get money for each email sent, as well as advertising availability it can sell within those emails.

Another magic word that came up:


. We're not talking just about emails here, he says: We're talking about targeted messages delivered on cell phones or any device one chooses, he says.

Editor-at-Large Cory Johnson contributed to this report.