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Signs of Green at Lending Tree

LendingTree Inc., which this week signed contracts with five lenders that will integrate its Lend-X Automatic Decision Engine into their loan processing software, reaffirmed its financial guidance, calling for a fourth-quarter loss but first-quarter 2002 EBITDA profitability.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based online loan operation said that it expects a cash operating loss of $2.5 million, or 13 cents per share, for its fourth quarter ending Dec. 31. On a fully diluted basis, analysts on average are expecting a fourth quarter loss of 30 cents a share, and a full-year loss of $1.44 a share.

However, the company said that "it continues to expect to achieve operating cash flow profitability (EBITDA) in February 2002..." And analysts are expecting 2002 full-year earnings of about 11 cents a share, fully diluted.

The stock hit a 52-week high in early trading today, going for $8.10 a share before dropping back to $7.25.

The company stated that its guidance remained unchanged for all of 2002, with expectations for revenue of $94 million and EBITDA of $6.6 million, or about 30 cents per share.

LendingTree also reaffirmed future outlook and growth projections, reiterating its 2006 financial targets, which include $250 million in revenue, 25 to 30 percent return on sales, EBITDA per share of $1.50 to $2, and earnings per share (EPS) of $1.25 to $1.70 on a fully diluted basis.

Meanwhile, all five of the new clients who have adopted the Automatic Decision Engine (ADE) technology also participate as lenders on the LendingTree Exchange. They include SIB Mortgage, Metro Lending, Millennium Bank and Pacific Guarantee Mortgage,

ADE is an option for the company's newly upgraded Lend-X system that enables lenders to lower loan processing costs by utilizing the Internet to provide an immediate response to mortgage loan requests.

LendingTree.com lets consumers receive multiple loan offers, within one business day, in response to a single loan request for home mortgages, home equity loans, personal loans, automobile loans and credit cards.