Briefs: The Week on The Net

SAN FRANCISCO (01/04/2000) - MARKET MOVERS UP NOTES: How fitting that as 1999 came to a close, the market's attention was focused on whether the Nasdaq Composite Index would pass 4000. Like the turn of the millennium, the event carries little more significance than the turn of an odometer. Net stocks were largely responsible for pushing the index over the line Dec. 29. The Nasdaq closed at 4041, while the Dow also set a record high, closing at 11484. Traders finished the year still worried about the stocks of online retailers, which are susceptible to possible bad news when profligate holiday ad spending shows up in their fourth-quarter results. But even those stocks were given some slack amid all the optimism. The beleaguered eToys, for instance, hit an all-time low of $24.50 in intraday trading Dec. 28, then came bouncing back to close at $26.75 on Wednesday. Amazon.com also climbed higher on the week, closing at $83.50 on Wednesday after several analysts did their best to squelch rumors of dismal fourth-quarter results. AOL, whose shares have doubled in value in 1999, looked poised to finish the millennium on an up note, closing Wednesday at $77.75.

IPO DROUGHT: The end of the year is never a big time for initial public offerings, and the relative silence was deafening. While there were 23 Internet IPOs during the first part of December - compared to nine during the same two weeks in 1998 - Streamedia was the only firm to go public since Dec. 20 and no new issues were slated through the end of the 1999.

OTHER NEWS

SEND LAWYERS, DRUGS AND MONEY: The Clinton administration is planning to ask Congress for beefed-up authority and more money to help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fight illegal online sales of legal, prescription drugs. The White House is calling for a $500,000 civil penalty for Web site operators caught selling drugs with-out the FDA's approval. Mainstream online drugstores such as Drugstore.com and Planet- Rx.com conceded that regulation might help establish trust in their services.

YARD SALING ONLINE: Priceline.com founder billionaire Jay Walker later this month will be the latest brave soul to enter the crowded online auction business. Like eBay, the new site, Perfect Yardsale, will try to match buyers and sellers, giving the site a cut of the proceeds. But in order to complete a sale at Perfect Yardsale, the buyer and seller must get together for a face-to-face inspection of the goods. The first market will be in the southeast U.S.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT: SFX, the biggest producer of live entertainment - with a $2.2 billion market cap and an audience of 60 million in 1998 - took a "substantial minority interest" in UltraStar Internet Services, the firm cofounded by rock legend David Bowie in late December. UltraStar, which launched the BowieNet membership club at Davidbowie.com in 1998, promises to create similar sites for big-name artists touring in SFX venues.

SEE YA IN SEATTLE: Microsoft has asked a federal judicial panel to consolidate dozens of private federal suits recently filed against the firm into one case, preferably in western Washington, near the company's headquarters, or in northern Illinois, where settlement talks are going on in the government's antitrust case. Most of the suits were filed after the judge in the government's case issued findings of fact in November that branded Microsoft as a monopolist.

SPLIT SHOOTS STOCK SKY-HIGH: Shares in Commerce One are on a spectacular run, even by current standards. The company, which sells purchasing software to large corporations and is building an Internet marketplace for trading office and other nonessential supplies, completed a three-for-one stock split Dec. 27.

Wall Street generally views splits as good news, although they merely redistribute shares among existing shareholders. However, on the day it split, Commerce One stock shot up 22 percent from $199 to $256. The next day, shares rocketed another 30 percent to as high as $331 before ending the day down slightly at $250. Commerce One went public in July and closed on its first day of trading at $20.

NOTED: Online biller CheckFree acquired BlueGill Technologies, a privately held maker of Internet billing software, for about $250 million in stock. ... Value America plans to lay off 47 percent of its workforce and restructure in the face of lower-than-expected revenues in the fourth quarter. ... Music site MP3.com acquired online events planner SeeUthere for about $150 million in stock.

(Edited by Patricia Sullivan.)

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