SAN FRANCISCO -- The debut of

ZDNet

(ZDZ)

has been a success, but not on the grand scale of many recent Internet IPOs.

Priced at 19, the Internet unit of

Ziff-Davis

(ZD)

opened at 35 3/4 and traded to a high of 40. It was recently trading around 35. In contrast, Tuesday's hot Internet IPO,

priceline.com

(PCLN)

, soared to 85 before closing at 69. It was priced at 16.

Shares of Ziff-Davis rallied ahead of the ZDNet IPO before floundering today. Ziff-Davis was recently trading down 6 1/2, or 22%, at 22 1/2. Before today's slide, the company had rebounded sharply from around 11, where the stock was trading on Dec. 22, when the ZDNet offering was filed. The stock reached a high of 29 on Tuesday.

Contributing to the selling pressures on Ziff-Davis was a well-timed downgrade of the stock by

Merrill Lynch

, which was a co-manager in the Ziff-Davis offering but is not an underwriter in the ZDNet offering. Merrill downgraded its intermediate-term rating on Ziff-Davis to neutral from accumulate but kept the stock a long-term buy. Merrill notes that Ziff-Davis met its price target of 24 to 27 that was set in February.

Karl Choi, an analyst with Merrill Lynch, said the timing of the downgrade "wasn't by design" and that the downgrade came simply because the stock met Merrill's price objective.

In the report, Merrill notes that it is maintaining its estimate of $254 million in EBITDA for Ziff-Davis in 1999 but believes "there is some risk to that outlook."

Axent Gets the Ax

Shares of security software maker

Axent Technologies

(AXNT)

have tumbled on concerns that the company's acquisition of U.K.-based

Passgo Technologies

would weigh on future earnings.

Axent said this morning it is acquiring Passgo for 1.55 million shares, or about $50 million, and will account for the transaction as a purchase. It expects to take a charge of up to $15 million, or 30% of the purchase price, for in-process research and development. Axent added it expects amortization of intangible assets to occur over three to five years, which some analysts said would drag on future earnings.

Prudential Securities

and

Josephthal

both downgraded the stock to hold on the news.

Axent was down 10 3/16, or 31%, at 22 5/16, its lowest level since October 1998.

Medora Lee

The Power of AOL

Multex.com

(MLTX)

, which went public earlier this month, is one of the largest gainers on the Nasdaq following news of an agreement with

America Online

(AOL)

. AOL announced that Multex.com was named to be the exclusive provider of brokerage research for AOL's Personal Finance Channel. Multex.com was trading up 15 9/16, or 39%, at 56 7/16, but was off highs of 64.

Verisigns of Life

Verisign

(VSIGN)

became the latest in a long list of companies to flourish following an announcement of a stock split. And why not? On Tuesday,

AboveNet

(ABOV)

announced a 2-for-1 split and saw its shares rise close to 26 points, or 32%. It was up another 10 11/16, or 10%, to 117 1/2 today.

Verisign, an Internet security software maker, was up 13 3/4, or 10%, at 148 3/8, but off session highs of 156. Shareholders of record May 14 will be eligible for the 2-for-1 split.