Yahoo! Keeps Gathering Steam

The Web company's numbers rise sharply in a surprisingly strong first quarter.
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Updated from 5:01 p.m. EDT

Continuing its recent financial upswing,

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

beat Wall Street's quarterly earnings expectations Wednesday.

For the quarter ended March 31, the Internet company reported net income of $46.7 million, or 8 cents per share, exceeding the consensus of 6 cents per share. A year ago the company reported a loss of $53.6 million, or 9 cents per share, following an 11-cent accounting charge.

Revenue of $282.9 million rose 47% from a year earlier, beating the $273.7 million consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Looking ahead, Yahoo! raised its guidance for 2003, reflecting at least in part its recent acquisition of search technology firm Inktomi. Second-quarter revenue will come in between $295 million and $315 million, above the Thomson First Call estimate of $292 million.

Full-year revenue, previously forecast in the range of $1.145 billion to $1.215 billion, will now be in the range of $1.22 billion to $1.28 billion. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, previously seen in the range of $295 million to $330 million, are now projected at between $350 million and $380 million.

Building the Brand

On a conference call with analysts Wednesday evening, Yahoo! executives highlighted the company's success in signing up customers for the SBC Yahoo! Internet service offered in partnership with

SBC Communications

(SBC)

, and building traditional online advertising.

In the first quarter, Internet brand advertising -- which has been overshadowed of late by the outstanding performance of pay-per-click search engine advertising -- grew "moderately ahead" of the 8% to 12% growth rate the company has forecast for the year, said financial chief Sue Decker.

Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel said nonsearch advertising benefited from the work of experienced salespeople targeting particular industries, primarily consumer packaged goods, telecom, autos and entertainment. Online will also benefit, he said, from the ever-shortening lead times for companies' advertising placement. Online's flexibility, he said, "is a selling point that could become even more attractive to advertisers."

Widespread Strength

The company's numbers were certainly attractive enough in the latest period. For the first quarter, ebitda amounted to $84.1 million, up from $18.8 million a year earlier. The company had told analysts that ebitda, a common bottom-line yardstick for media companies, would fall in the range of $60 million to $70 million.

Operating income was 19% of revenue for the quarter, compared to an operating loss of 2% one year earlier. Yahoo! said the improvement reflected expense growth of 16% alongside the company's strong revenue growth.

Yahoo! shares, which have been trading near their highs of the year as the company rolls out initiatives to bring in more revenue from users of its Web-based offerings, dropped 4% Wednesday ahead of the postclose report. In after-hours trading they rose 34 cents to $23.21.