VerticalNet

(VERT)

is again confronting the issue of whether it's a true business-to-business player.

On Tuesday, two

Merrill Lynch

analysts raised the point that VerticalNet lacks enough of an online B2B presence. In a note, analysts Henry Blodget and Ed McCabe said if the company's third-quarter revenue shows unexpected gains they'll come not from the online operations but from its offline business.

"Until this revenue moves online, it won't excite us terribly much," the pair wrote. (Blodget and McCabe rate the stock an accumulate. Merrill hasn't done any underwriting for VerticalNet.)

VerticalNet maintains interactive communities on the Internet for industry professionals. But it also runs

NECX

TheStreet Recommends

, an offline brokerage for computer chips.

The Horsham, Penn.-based company's stock was off $3.25, or 9.3%, to $31.88.

And given the company's dependence on offline operations, the stock doesn't look cheap trading at 10 times the 2001 net revenue estimate, the analysts said. By comparison,

Ariba

(ARBA)

trades at closer to 70 times next year's revenue, but it's considered a pure e-commerce play.

VeritcalNet has been dealing with this issue for some time. Earlier this month, it

promised that it was making a bigger push into B2B. And the company has

changed its internal structure, which could emphasize its online B2B operations.