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Yahoo! Tops Earnings Expectations,
Looking to Make Acquisitions

By Cliff Edwards   Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo! Inc. executives say they're poised to take advantage of the company's strong profits and the volatility in the tech sector to snap up smaller firms and strengthen Yahoo!'s pre-eminence among Web destinations.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company on Wednesday again vaulted above Wall Street predictions, reporting first-quarter earnings sharply higher than those of a year ago.

For the three months ended March 31, Yahoo! reported net income of $77.8 million, or 13 cents a share, compared to $1.8 million, or break-even, in the same period a year ago.

Excluding a $40.7 million gain made from investments and charges relating to acquisitions and income taxes, Yahoo! earned 10 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial had expected earnings of 9 cents per share.

Yahoo! earnings reports often are eagerly awaited because the company has consistently outperformed expectations. But in recent days, investors have focused even more attention on Yahoo! because it is one of the few "blue-chip" Internet firms that have turned a profit.

The earnings report may also serve as a bellwether for the Internet industry, despite stock volatility and predictions that the weakest e-companies are in trouble.

Yahoo! chief executive Tim Koogle suggested Wednesday in a conference call to analysts that a shakeout in the Internet industry has begun that will lead to business failures. For Yahoo!, that may translate to buying opportunities and expansion possibilities.

"The high rate of new company formation has led to an environment in which consolidation is a natural outcome, and that already is underway," Koogle said. "The strong do grow stronger."

Yahoo!'s net revenues rose 120 percent to $228.4 million, from $103.9 million, as its overseas audience, particularly in Japan, continued a sharp gain.

The company reported a record 625 million page views per day on average during March, compared to an average of 465 million page views per day in December 1999. The number of registered users worldwide reached 125 million in March, the company reported.

Analysts said Yahoo!'s continuing success stemmed from moves to extend its reach into nearly all segments of the Internet, including business-to-business, business-to-consumer, financial services and wireless. Advertisers and merchants pay companies like Yahoo! more because of their larger audience.

Because of the increased advertising revenues, Yahoo! increased its estimate of its future operating profit margin from 32 percent to 38 percent.

"This is a very high level of profitability that would be the envy of most companies," said Gary Valenzuela, the company's chief financial officer.

Separately, the company announced Valenzuela planned to retire in July and would be succeeded by Susan L. Decker, a research analyst at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.

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