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A Double Whammy for Ariba

Struggling B2B software maker Ariba Inc. suffered a double whammy today, reporting a wider loss for the third quarter and the no-explanations departure of its CEO, who had held the post for only one quarter.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company posted a pro forma loss of $26.1 million on higher revenues of $85.3 million. The loss came to 10 cents a share, before charges, compared with a loss of $11.3 million, or 5 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier. Those figures actually beat a reduced Wall Street earnings consensus, which was a loss of 12 cents a share.

Including charges, Ariba posted a whopping fully diluted net loss of $273.5 million, or $1.10 a share, compared with a loss of $317.1 million, or $1.45 a share in the 2000 quarter.

Once a Wall Street high roller with a 52-week high of $173.50 per share, the stock was trading at $4.74 in late-morning action after opening at $5.13. The 52-week low is $3.64.

Mueller, who had been the company's chief marketing officer, was named chief executive last April, after the company slashed its work force by a third and scrapped a plan to purchase San Jose-based Agile Software.

For the six months ended March 31, Ariba revenues totaled $260.9 million, up from $63.5 million. Net loss totaled $2.18 billion, up from $136.3 million in the comparable period a year earlier. About $1.4 billion of the loss was a writedown for goodwill related to an acquisition.

The company said today that Chairman Keith Krach will serve as the interim CEO pending the selection of a replacement for Mueller.

At the time of Mueller's appointment, Krach said: "With Larry leading Ariba, I'm confident we will be successful in taking Ariba to the next level."

Today, he was quoted in published reports as saying Mueller left for personal reasons.

In a terse news release, Krach said: "Ariba's market leadership, value proposition and world-class management team give the board confidence that Ariba will continue to deliver on its strategic initiatives and enhance the company (sic)."

"Building on actions implemented last quarter, we plan to continue to improve our performance, manage costs, and reenergize the company to build confidence in our stockholders, customers and employees," he continued.