Autobytel.com Inc.'s path to a 2001 profit has grown thornier.
The online referral service had predicted a loss of about 10 cents per share in the second quarter and a pre-tax profit in the third. But now it says the loss was about $1.80 per share in the second quarter. And it hopes to break even, on a pre-tax basis, in the fourth quarter, after completing its acquisition of rival Autoweb.com of Santa Clara, Calif.
Autobytel.com of Irvine, Calif., derives most of its revenue from dealer subscriptions, and it blames a slowdown in dealer advertising for part of its trouble. But it also took $34 million in special charges for the second quarter.
A sign of trouble came in June when Autobytel.com said it would restructure its European operations by cutting staff and altering its capital structure. The company now says its second-quarter results, which will be reported Thursday, July 26, will reflect a $5 million charge related to its European unit.
The biggest hit will come from a $22 million charge related to last year's aquisition of CarSmart.
Autobytel.com expects to report second-quarter revenue of $15.5 million to $16 million. In April, it forecast second-quarter revenue of $16 million to $16.5 million.
Its losses had been shrinking. Its net loss in the first quarter of this year was about half of its loss in the same quarter of 2000 - $4.1 million vs. $8.1 million.
The dismal forecast comes at a critical time. Autobytel.com is about to finish a pilot of a joint online shopping site with General Motors in Washington, which could lead to a profitable alliance with GM. But Autobytel.com lost Chick Ramsay, the senior vice president in charge of the test. Ramsay resigned to take a job with Indian Motorcycle Co.
Staff Reporter Donna Harris can be reached at [email protected] or 540-668-7295.
Editor's note: This will be the final Dot-Com column. The weekly feature was created in 1999 to chronicle the flood of news surrounding Internet technology and its impact on automotive retailing. Automotive News will continue to focus on information technology as part of its weekly news coverage as well as in monthly feature pages and in four special sections annually.