AOL Q4 Earnings Double

NEW YORK -- America Online Inc. said its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings more than doubled as strong growth in advertising, electronic commerce and subscribers helped the leading Internet services company top Wall Street estimates.

The company said its earnings jumped to $334 million, or 13 cents a share, excluding one-time items, in the three months ended June 30, from $155 million, or 6 cents, a year earlier. Analysts on average estimated earnings for the latest quarter at 11 cents per share, or two cents less than the result, according to First Call/Thomson Financial.

Including one-time charges related to acquisition of online map company MapQuest, net income rose to $338 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, from $157 million, or 6 cents, a year earlier.

Dulles, Virginia-based AOL, which expects its proposed merger with media giant Time Warner Inc. to be completed this autumn, said revenues climbed 39 percent to $1.9 billion from $1.4 billion a year-ago, matching analysts' estimates.

Advertising and electronic commerce revenues grew 95 percent to $609 million as the firm formed more partnerships with brands and retailers.

AOL stock closed up 2-1/4 at 61-9/16 before the results.

The seeming slow down in advertising spending seems to pose little problem for America Online.

"We are actually seeing a rush of companies who are trying to establish a stronger interactive presence," said Steve Case, AOL chief executive in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, the company's main AOL online service added 992,000 net new members for the fourth quarter, bringing the total of 23.2 million at June 30.

For the full year, excluding one-time items, earnings for AOL rose to $1.0 billion, or 40 cents a diluted share, on total revenues of $6.9 billion, compared with $391 million, or 17 cents a diluted share, on revenues of $4.8 billion the year-earlier.

Wall Street analysts had expected AOL to post earnings of 38 cents a share for the fiscal year.

Including other items, fiscal 2000 net income rose to $1.2 billion, or 48 cents per diluted share, from $754 million, or 30 cents, a year-earlier.

Case said he had no doubts that the company would show strong growth worldwide as the Internet becomes a larger force abroad. He said AOL's international ventures signed up 1.4 million net new members in the year, bringing the total 4.6 million.