Overture Scores on Earnings, Yahoo!

Pay-for-placement search provider Overture continues improving on its performance despite growing competition, with revenue and profits increasing from fourth quarter.

The Pasadena, Calif.-based firm posted first-quarter net income of $29.3 million, or $0.48 per share, up 4 1 percent from last quarter. Revenue grew from $101.2 million to $142.8 million during the quarter.

Before charges, the firm posted $32.5 million in earnings, or $0.54 per diluted share, up from $24.5 million, or $0.41 per diluted share, in fourth quarter.

Factors contributing to the increase included a rise in the number of clicks during the quarter — from 442 million to 587 million — and the average price per click, which grew by a penny to $0.24.

During the quarter, the firm also extended its distribution agreements with a number of major portals, including Microsoft’s MSN, Walt Disney Internet Group’s Go.com, and The Excite Network’s iWon.com. It also inked a new agreement with BellSouth .

Additionally, quarterly results included a month of operations from Overture’s new German unit, which is focused on attracting German-language advertisers and affiliates, in competition with regional players like eSpotting.

It’s likely that the strong performance will continue. During the present quarter, Overture signed Hewlett-Packard to a deal in which its search results would power the computer manufacturer’s default Web start page and would gain a button-link on HP computer keyboards.

Also, Web portal Yahoo renewed the firm’s paid listings agreement for three years — putting to bed concerns about whether the site would turn to an Overture competitor for paid listings, such as the popular Google search engine.

The company, which ended the quarter with $226 million in cash and marketable securities, also raised guidance for the coming quarter and year. Now, it expects second quarter revenues to come in at $133 million, with full-year revenues at $473 million — an increase from earlier full-year forecasts of $465.6 million.

Overture also said full-year earnings would rise to $0.94 per share for the year, well above 2001’s $0.32 per share performance, and topping analyst consensus of $0.87 per share.

More importantly, that guidance does not account for either Yahoo’s impact on the company’s bottom-line, nor that of AOL Time Warner , which is in contract renewal talks with Overture through May 1. Overture said it would update its outlook in coming days.

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