Ask Jeeves Profit Misses Expectations

Web search company Ask Jeeves Inc. (ASKJ) on Wednesday posted a quarterly profit that beat expectations, but its shares slipped less than 1 percent after it forecast current-quarter earnings below Wall Street's consensus targets.

Ask Jeeves is the fourth most-used Web search company in the United States behind Google Inc. (GOOG), Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) and Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) MSN, according to Internet market research firm Hitwise.

Ask Jeeves (ASKJ), which has agreed to be bought by Barry Diller's Web conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI), had first-quarter net income of $18.1 million, or 26 cents a share, compared with year-earlier net of $13.4 million, or 23 cents.

Excluding items, the company had a profit of 37 cents a share, beating analysts' average call for 34 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue jumped to $94.9 million from $39.2 million, reflecting the company's acquisition last May of Interactive Search Holdings Inc. and search revenue that grew 16 percent from the prior quarter -- falling just under analysts' average estimate of $94.2 million.

Ask Jeeves said it sees second-quarter revenue of $94 million and pro forma income of about 31 cents a share. It forecast net income of 21 cents a share.

For the second quarter, analysts' average estimates called for earnings of 33 cents, excluding items, on revenue of $92.6 million. Their net income target was 23 cents a share.

For the full year, it sees revenue of $380 million to $395 million and earnings excluding items of $1.30 to $1.45 a share. Net income is seen at 90 cents to $1.05 a share.

Analysts' average 2005 estimates call for revenue of $385 million, earnings excluding items of $1.39 a share, and net income of $1.04 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Both forecasts are for Ask Jeeves as a stand-alone business.

Shares of Ask Jeeves, which closed at down 16 cents to $27.42 on the Nasdaq, slipped to $27.22 in extended trade on Inet.