Stock Watch: CheckFree Falls on Q4 Loss

CheckFree Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: CKFR) fell 3 1/2 to 44 11/16 Wednesday after reporting a quarterly loss that was a penny larger than analysts expected.

Atlanta, Georgia-based CheckFree, which provides electronic billing and payment services, said revenue for the first quarter ended September 30th rose to $90.8 million from $69 million in the same period last year.

The company posted a loss before items of $5.5 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a loss of $2.4 million, or 5 cents, in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts had been expecting a loss of 8 cents. CheckFree said the results include the operations of TransPoint, acquired September 1st, but not results from a recently announced deal to handle online billing for Bank of America.

CheckFree said it expects second-quarter revenue of $104 million to $109 million, with a pro forma loss of 7 to 9 cents per share. Second-quarter results will reflect the Bank of America agreement, which closed October 1st.

Chairman and chief executive officer Pete Kight said he was pleased with the company’s performance during the historically slow quarter. “Today, consumers can go to nearly 250 Internet sites to receive and pay their bills, which is up from just under 200 sites at the close of last quarter,” he said. “We are distributing bills at a run rate of 1.7 million annually, and our sequential quarterly subscriber growth was 8 percent.”

Fifty-three companies signed on to use the company’s service during the quarter, 30 of them TransPoint customers. CheckFree said it distributed about 140,000 bills over the Internet in September, putting the company on track to send 1.7 million this year.

Subscriber accounts grew 8 percent during the quarter to 3.8 million. When the 300,000 Bank of America subscribers covered under the new alliance are included, the number rises to about 4.1 million, CheckFree said.

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