Scoot to make profits next year

Shares rise on optimistic outlook and speculation of Vivendi buyout shares got a boost Friday after the company announced it will move into profitability in 2001, a year earlier than expected. The shares were up 5.3, or 4.13 percent, to about 132p at midday, still well off the company's 52-week high of 357p.

Scoot, which provides directory services via telephone, mobile, Internet and other platforms, said its subscriber base during the third quarter ended 30 June grew by 16 percent and was accelerating more quickly in the current quarter. In Q3 2000 Scoot had 23,359 subscribers -- companies who pay to be listed in the directory service.

But Scoot said its revenues for the nine months ending 30 July were down 38 percent to £8.2m from £13.3m the same period last year, and operating losses increased by 56 percent from £10.6m to £16.6m in the same period. The company blamed the decline on "teething problems" due to the introduction of a new back-end system, and on a switchover from fixed-rate to variable-rate pricing.

"In the past few months our UK business has resumed its growth path. Based on the current encouraging trends in our business we expect to achieve positive Ebitda in Scoot [UK] during the course of 2001, substantially ahead of expectations," said Scoot chief executive Robert Bonnier in a prepared statement.

Despite the one-day jump, Scoot's share price has dragged for the last few months, hovering around the 150p mark since late June, far below March's highs of around 350p. Observers have speculated that the situation could lead to Scoot's acquisition by a larger company -- likely its largest shareholder, Vivendi.

Other dot-com companies have been snapped up recently by more established groups, for example, which announced Friday its acquisition by Great Universal Stores.

Scoot said Vivendi increased its shareholding from 11.5 percent to 22.4 percent at the end of July, buying new shares for a total of £198.5m. Scoot used most of the funds to buy classifieds service and will use as working capital and for acquisitions and investments.

Vivendi and Scoot recently paid £28.5m to buy out the shares in Scoot Netherlands and Belgium formerly held by publishing firm VNU.

In a related announcement, Scoot announced a deal to include Scoot Netherlands with MSN's Dutch Web site, MSN Netherlands currently has over 150,000 users a day.

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