AltaVista files for initial public offering

Internet search engine and portal operator AltaVista filed Friday a registration statement for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Morgan Stanley Dean Witter will act as the lead underwriter of the offering, the company said.

The company's SEC filing shows revenue climbing fast and, as with most Internet ventures, losses continuing to exceed revenue.

AltaVista reported total revenue in the first nine months of the current year at $US108.2 million against an operating loss of $86 million and net loss of $745.1 million. In 1998, the company's last full fiscal year, revenue was $45.3 million against an operating loss of $56.9 million and net loss of $939.2 million.

The high net loss in both years was caused by stock-based compensation and amortisation of intangibles, according to the company's filing.

The company reported that 63.3 percent of total revenue in the year to date has come from advertising and services with the remainder from products. In 1998, advertising and service revenue represented 82.1 percent of total revenue.

AltaVista was one of the pioneers of Internet search engine technology and launched onto the Web with a bang in November 1995 with its claim of a database that contained half of the entire Web - some 60 million documents at the time. In addition to offering a public search engine, the company also produced, and still does, search engines for use on third party sites and intranets.

Internet investment house CMGI currently owns 81.5 percent of AltaVista having acquired it from Compaq Computer in June this year Compaq retained a 18.5 percent interest in the company as part of the deal. Compaq acquired AltaVista in 1998 when it bought Digital Equipment Corp. and had initially planned to take the company public itself but shelved these plans in favour of the CMGI deal.

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