Yahoo! earnings beat The Street

The Internet bellwether earns $57.5m on sales of $201m in the fourth quarter. The board also declares a 2-for-1 stock split.

Yahoo! topped analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Tuesday, earning $57.5m (£35.65m), or 19 cents a share, on record sales of $201m. It also announced a 2-for-1 stock split.

First Call consensus expected Yahoo! to earn 15 cents a share in the quarter on sales of around $184m. Its shares closed off 38 11/16 to 397 3/8 ahead of the earnings report.

The $201m in sales represents a 120 percent improvement compared to the year-ago quarter when it pocketed $12.8m, or 4 cents a share, on sales of $91.2m.

Including acquisition-related charges and taxes on gains realized by employees from non-qualified stock option exercises, Yahoo! earned $44.7m, or 15 cents a share.

Yahoo!'s impressive earnings mark the 15th consecutive quarter the company has topped Street estimates. So-called "whisper" estimates pegged Yahoo! for a pro forma profit of around 18 cents a share.

"We exited 1999 as one of the top three global branded networks," said CEO Tim Koogle in a prepared release. "We are well-positioned to continue our leadership position in the year ahead, and will continue to invest in growing our business on all fronts." By any measure, Yahoo!'s fourth quarter was a tremendous success. In December, Yahoo! reported more than 120 million unique users, doubling the 60 million users it recorded in the year-ago quarter.

Its registered user base grew to more than 100 million users, well above the 90 million expected by most analysts. Its combined home and work users reach shot up to 64.7 percent in November, up from 49.6 percent in the same period last year. Its average daily page views surged to 465 million in December, up from 167 million in the year-ago period.

Last quarter, Yahoo! pocketed $40.4m, or 14 cents a share, on sales of $155.1m. Its shares were trading at a paltry 110 in August before surging to a 52-week high of 500 1/8 earlier this month.

First Call consensus expects it to earn 44 cents a share in the fiscal year. Twenty-nine of the 33 analysts watching Yahoo! rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy." Company officials said the 2-for-1 stock split will take effect on February 14.

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