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Travel And Ticket Revenue Boosts InterActiveCorp's Earnings

The E-commerce company says 4Q revenue and net income rose thanks to gains in online travel, ticketing, personal services, and the Home Shopping Network.
LOS ANGELES (AP) " Electronic-commerce company InterActiveCorp. reported higher income and revenue in the fourth quarter as it showed growth in its online travel, ticketing, and personals services as well as its Home Shopping Network.

The company, which operates online sites such as Expedia, Ticketmaster, and Citysearch, said Monday it expects growth in operating income before amortization of about 30 percent a year through 2008 as its various business begin to work more closely together.

IAC reported net income of $153 million, or 20 cents per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31 compared to $145 million, or 30 cents per share, last year.

Earnings per share were lower in the current quarter because of higher amortization of intangibles, non-cash compensation and more shares outstanding, the company said.

Revenue grew 36 percent to $1.8 billion from $1.3 billion in the same period last year. Sales increased by double digits in all segments, including travel sites such as Hotels.com and Expedia, ticketing sites Ticketmaster, and online personals site Match.com.

Adjusted net income, which excludes amortization and other charges, was $228 million, or 29 cents per share, compared to $169 million, or 24 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

Those results beat the expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, who had been looking for earnings of 23 cents per share before charges.

Shares of IAC were up $1.09 to close at $33.04 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Chairman Barry Diller told analysts the company had reversed its earlier opinion that its Home Shopping Network was not a core business--an opinion that had led analysts to think IAC was looking to sell the network, which sells products on television and over the Internet.

"We're now here to say we believe it profoundly is," Diller said during a conference call. "Convergence is happening even more rapidly than we thought a year ago."

The network's revenues grew 17 percent for the full year and 19 percent in the quarter, Diller said, "and January is blowing through the walls with greater growth than any single month last year."

Executives said the company, which has been growing rapidly through acquisitions, would now concentrate on integrating the various businesses and growing internally.

"During this year, we're going to be able to show ... how things fit together and how these business will really grow and sustain quite a huge business over time," IAC vice chairman Victor Kaufman said.

Diller acknowledged that the company's stock has been trading at lower multiples to earnings than other Internet companies, such as Yahoo! Inc., but said that should change this year.

"We think this is the set-up year, the year to act with consistency," Diller said. "And if we don't turn sharp corners, that people will look at us and will take some of this discounting that they do off of us."

He said that while IAC was in discussions with a number of businesses that could lead to acquisitions this year, it would not overpay.

"We thrived the first time around by staying grounded and making sound bets on real businesses and we do not intend to lose that discipline," he said.

The company's financial-services and real-estate division, which includes last year's acquisition of LendingTree.com, reported lower than expected revenue from mortgage refinancings in the fourth quarter. The company said the division expects increased competition for a smaller number of mortgages in 2004.

IAC, based in New York, repurchased 19 million shares at a cost of $591 million during the quarter, the company said.

For the full year, IAC reported net income of $154 million, or 23 cents per share, compared with $1.94 billion, or $4.54 per share in 2002.

The 2002 results included a one-time gain of $5.58 per share related to IAC's stake in Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

Revenue grew to $6.33 billion from $4.58 billion in 2002. During the year, IAC acquired a number of businesses, including uDate, LendingTree, and Hotwire.

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