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Bankrate.com Stock Bumped Off Nasdaq

Bankrate Inc., , the popular, award-winning consumer financial website, told investors today that its stock would no longer trade on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange because its assets had fallen below the minimum required.

The news, buried near the end of an otherwise rosy eight-page earnings report, comes scant weeks after the exchange had issued a delisting warning to the North Pam Beach-based company. Beginning today, its shares will now trade on the OTC Bulletin Board alongside other so-called penny stocks.

Bankrate, whose Bankrate.com website provides consumer loan and personal finance information, said in its report that the Nasdaq decided to delist the company's common stock because its net tangible assets fell below the required $4 million minimum. The company's stock has been battered since it went public in May 1999, debuting at $13 a share and recently trading as low as 13 cents.

"The timing is unfortunate but it isn't a hindernace," said Bankrate Chief Financial Officer Robert DeFranco in a telephone interview this afternoon. "We're stronger now than we ever were. Now we're focused on our Bankrate.com site, and really focused on the budget for 2001, and if we make or beat that then good things will happen."

The delisting is bittersweet news coming amid a glowing earnings report that showed the company has slashed costs, increased revenue and is posting record traffic to its Bankrate.com website thanks to recent moves by the Federal Reserve Bank that have lowered interest rates and re-ignited consumers' interest in the mortgage and savings products Bankrate specializes in.

For the year ended Dec. 31, 2000 Bankrate's online revenues increased 45 percent to $12.28 million compared to $8.5 million during 1999. The company's total fourth-quarter revenue, which includes money from its content syndication to print publications, was $3.9 million, or 8 percent higher than the comparable 1999 period.

Fourth-quarter online revenues were 15 percent higher, or $3.2 million, for the fourth quarter compared to the same period a year ago. Bankrate's online publishing revenue represents between five percent and 17 percent of total revenue, including barter revenue deals.

Traffic to the Bankrate.com website has also spiked, according to the company, which said its traffic growth was up more than 40 percent in 2000 compared to the year prior though no exact figures were disclosed. The site has consistently rated among the most highly-trafficked personal finance websites, according to Media Metrix and other web traffic authorities.

Bankrate Chief Executive Elisabeth DeMarse, in the report, said the company has been successful in reining in costs and focusing the company on its core Bankrate.com product. Last Fall, the company changed its name to Bankrate Inc. and began trading under the stock ticker RATE, a move DeMarse said was "primarily a symbolic gesture, [that] drives home the point that this is what we are - the primary online distribution channel for banks and other lenders customer acquisition and retention efforts."

She added that the company has also reduced costs. Bankrate began a restructuring effort last June, and since then has seen its gross margins jump to 63 percent in December versus 25 percent in January 2000.

However, the restructuring came at a cost. During the year ended Dec. 31, 2000, the company recorded restructuring and goodwill impairment charges of $2.21 million related to layoffs last June and the write-off of assets, such as the shut-down of its Spanish-language website, Consejero.com, and its stock site GreenMagazine.com.

Excluding those restructuring and goodwill impairment charges, Bankrate's total fourth-quarter operating expenses decreased 73 percent to $3.35 million compared the comparable quarter in 1999. Total operatin