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IPO a smash? Ask Jeeves
July 1, 1999: 4:44 p.m. ET

Plain-language search engine soars 364%; CommerceOne up 190%
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - A pair of Internet-related initial public offerings made highly successful Wall Street debuts Thursday, signifying renewed investor enthusiasm for new "dot-com" issues.
     Shares of plain-language Web search engine Ask Jeeves Inc. closed at 64-15/16, up 50-15/16-- or 364 percent -- from an offering price of 14.
     Berkeley, Calif.-based Ask Jeeves (ASKJ), which launched the site in April 1997, employs a unique approach to Web searches. Instead of requiring users to enter keywords separated by such terms as and, or and with, Ask Jeeves lets users search for information by asking questions, such as "How do I apply for a student loan?"
     Jeeves, a cartoon valet named after the famed P.G. Wodehouse character, directs users to several relevant sites that can answer the question.
     The model is based on the company's goal to "humanize the Internet," according to Ask Jeeves' filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ask Jeeves for help on the Web

     That plan has yet, however, to translate into profits. Ask Jeeves reported a loss of $4.9 million, or 29 cents a share on a pro-forma basis, in the quarter ended March 31.
     According to its SEC filing, Ask Jeeves plans to derive a significant portion of its revenue from e-commerce and customized corporate solutions, though it has yet to garner any revenue from these business models.
     The company has signed up six corporate customers, including Dell Computer Corp. (DELL), BellSouth Corp. (BLS) and Compaq Computer Corp. (CPQ). CPQ Holdings, a Compaq subsidiary, holds a 12-percent stake in Ask Jeeves.
     "They use our customized question-and-answer services for their Web sites, so their customers can ask pre-sales questions and get information about things like support," said Robert Wrubel, Ask Jeeves president and chief executive officer.
     Wrubel declined to comment on when Ask Jeeves expects to become profitable. But with a market cap of about $1.6 billion after just one day on the Nasdaq stock market, Ask Jeeves could be prime takeover property, following the lead of traditional search engines/Web portals.
     "We'll always do what's great for shareholders," Wrubel said. "We'll continue down this path and evaluate the options for our growth plans down the road."
Commerce One jumps

     Another Internet-related IPO, e-commerce software firm Commerce One Inc. (CMRC), rose to 61, up 40 -- or 190 percent -- from its offering price of 21.
     Commerce One offers software that connect buyers with suppliers of goods over the Internet.
     The Walnut Creek, Calif. firm lost $12.3 million in the quarter ended March 31. Back to top


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Ask Jeeves

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