WebMD's Ailing Outlook

WebMD's (Nasdaq: HLTH  ) quarterly results won't be as healthy as the market had hoped. The company warned today that both its third- and fourth-quarter results will lag expectations. Shares toppled nearly 9% on the news, to around $8.

No longer just a website that provides free medical information, WebMD is now also in the business of selling transaction and data management software to health-care professionals and doctors' offices. Weak results from these parts of its business caused the projected downfall.

For the third quarter, WebMD now anticipates earnings from operations of $0.09 a share, two cents below expectations. Revenues will come in around $250 million, rather than the $257 million analysts had expected.

The company's physician services and transactions services divisions both underperformed during the period. Put simply, that means that doctors and other health-care professionals didn't buy as much software or didn't upgrade their current WebMD products, as the company had hoped.

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, WebMD expects to earn $0.10 a share before one-time items, versus estimates for $0.13. Revenues should be between $255 million-$265 million, below the anticipated $270 million. The same problems that affected the third quarter will carry over into the fourth, though the company believes that its physician services division's operating results should strengthen some.

Though shares of WebMD have risen from a 52-week low of $5.06, they're off the high of $12.49 reached in July of this year. Worse, they're still significantly off their May 1999 high of $107 a share.

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