Internet lead generator Autobytel Inc., which hasn't turned an annual profit since 2004, continued its drought in 2009 after reporting a net loss in the fourth quarter.
The quarterly loss of $970,000 was Autobytel's largest quarterly drop in 2009 but was an improvement from a 2008 fourth-quarter loss of $15.1 million, which included severance-related costs and non-cash impairment charges.
Despite the continued downward trend, CEO Jeffrey Coats said in a statement that the company is making significant headway toward achieving profitability.
“During 2009, our focus was on recovering Autobytel's leadership position by returning to the basics and providing increasing value to our dealer and manufacturer customers,” Coats said. “Internally generated auto referrals are up, dealer count is beginning to show signs of improvement, and we generated positive cash flow for the months of November and December.”
The Irvine, Calif., company's gross profit margin increased to 39.1 percent for the 2009 fourth quarter, up 3.6 percentage points from the third quarter last year. Losses from continuing operations totaled $985,000 in the fourth quarter, compared with a $1.2 million loss in the third quarter.
Revenue for the fourth quarter was $12.3 million, down from $14.2 million from the same period in 2008.
Autobytel, which refers customers to dealers and automakers through Internet marketing, reported a net loss of $2.4 million or 5 cents per share for 2009, including $1.2 million in income from discontinued operations. For 2008, the net loss was $79.9 million.
Since it went public in 1999, Autobytel has posted an annual net profit only twice, in 2003 and 2004, according to Bloomberg data.