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i2 Outperforms

i2 Technologies has been holding up better than other leading B2B stocks, and in this tough environment for technology and Internet stocks, any sign of relative strength is worth investigating.

The reason for i2's outperformance appears to be a simple one: i2 is expected to lose less money than other leading B2B stocks this year, and is expected to earn more than them next year.

That's why the leading supply-chain management software firm is up 60% off its lows, while the exchange and procurement companies once mentioned in the same breath as i2 as the leaders of the B2B revolution, Commerce One and Ariba , are languishing in the single digits, barely above their recent lows. Add a potent alliance with IBM to the mix, and you have the makings of a survivor, if not a winner.

i2 is expected to lose 3 cents a share this year (down from earnings of 26 cents last year), and is expected to earn 26 cents a share next year. Commerce One is expected to lose 27 cents a share this year (up from a year-ago loss of 35 cents), and earn 7 cents a share next year. Ariba is expected to lose 33 cents a share for the year ending in September, more than double its fiscal 2000 loss, and to lose 3 cents a share for the year ending September 2002.

That makes i2 by far the most profitable of the three companies, justifying the highest stock price of the three, closing at 20.14 yesterday. Commerce One closed at 6.29, and Ariba at 5.63. Those projected earnings give i2 and Commerce One steep price-to-earnings ratios of 77 and 90, respectively, based on 2002 estimates. But that's better than Ariba, which is expected to have no earnings next year and thus has no PE ratio.

i2 appears to have the edge in earnings and valuation, and the technical picture is also much better than Commerce One and Ariba. Not only has the stock bounced nicely off its 52-week low of 12.56, but it is also forming a nice rising channel (see chart below), as long as that lower trendline at 19 or so holds. Ariba and Commerce One have established no such chart momentum.

Market dominance, earnings that are holding up comparatively well, and a good technical picture. In this market, that's a rare combination, and i2 appears to have them all.