VerticalNet Leads Net Stocks Higher

A series of positive earnings report combined with news software giant Microsoft Corp. is taking a stake in a B2B Web play were sending Net stocks higher in midday trading Friday.

At 11:45 a.m. Eastern,’s Internet Stock Index was up 7.53, or 0.86 percent, to 885.41, the Nasdaq Composite had gained 15.23 to 4,204.74 and the Dow Jones industrial average had lost 57.08 to 11,294.22.

The star of the session was VerticalNet Inc. (VERT), which had soared 43-3/4 to 237-5/16 on news that Microsoft is investing $100 million as part of an electronic-commerce alliance.

Digital Island Inc. (ISLD) was up 3-15/16 to 83-15/16. The network services firm Friday filed to sell an additional 4.5 million shares in a secondary offering.

Excite@Home (ATHM) was off 1-3/8 to 41-1/4. The cable Internet company reported a pro-forma fourth-quarter profit of $514,000, or less than a penny per share. Also, Excite@Home President George Bell was promoted to chief executive officer.

In a note issued Friday, Robertson Stephens analyst Michael Graham said plans to offer Excite@Home through Digital Subscriber Line providers, along with the implementation of a solid management team, should be beneficial for the stock.

“We believe the two most important issues affecting the stock over the next six months will be the resolution of the open-access debate and the first signs of agreements with current cable partners for continued deals after the exclusive period begins expiring in 2002. We expect the open-access issue will effectively end in Portland by mid-February and that the result will be favorable to AT&T. We expect that by year-end or sooner, we could see the first hints of post-exclusivity deals with existing partners.

“In our view, both of these developments could help ATHM stock move back to old highs near $100,” he said.

Inktomi Corp. (INKT) had gained 10-1/4 to 110-1/4. The Internet software maker reported a first-quarter pro-forma loss of 2 cents a share, beating estimates of a 4-cent loss. Inc. (PHCM) had added 6-7/8 to 132. The company reported fiscal second-quarter revenue jumped seven-fold to $12.8 million.

E-commerce company (SPNW) was down 2-15/16 to 19, despite reporting better-than-expected results. The company reported a fourth-quarter loss of $18.9 million, or 51 cents a share, down from a loss of $16.8 million, or 65 cents a share, in the prior quarter. Analysts had forecast a 72-cent loss.

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