Netscape posts another solid quarter

Internet bellwether Netscape Communications Corp. grew slightly faster than expected in its third quarter, posting a 53 percent jump in sales.

In the quarter that ended September 30, sales were $150 million, a 50 percent increase over $100 million in that period a year earlier.

Netscape earned $11.7 million, or 13 cents a share; a 53 percent jump from $7.7 million, or 9 cents a share, for the third quarter of 1996.

That was slightly better than analyst estimates tracked by Zacks Investment Research, where the consensus was that the company would come in at 12 cents a share.

The company had $87 million in cash and cash equivalents. Netscape shares rose slightly to $40.12 in after-hours trading, following a close at $39.81.

"Netscape showed continued strong growth in the third quarter, making significant strides in its three areas of business: intranets, extranets and the Internet," said Jim Barksdale, president and chief executive officer, in a press release.

In a conference call with reporters, Chief Administrative Officer Peter Currie said he was comfortable with Wall Street expectations that the company will report sales in the fourth quarter of between the high $150 million to low $160 million mark.

He said also Netscape could show some improvement in operating margins this quarter, but those would be driven by sales growth.

The Mountain View, Calif., company last month announced an ambitious strategy called Netscape Everywhere to wire individuals and businesses to the Internet, and to link businesses in order to foster electronic commerce.

It also announced in the quarter that it would make Netscape Navigator 4.0 browser software available as a stand-alone product, separate from Netscape Communicator.

The company may benefit from a turn of events in the news Monday: The U.S. Justice Department is seeking a court ruling against nemesis Microsoft Corp. If upheld, this ruling could significantly help Netscape's browser sales, analysts said.

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