E-bill processor CheckFree (NASDAQ:CKFR) is ahead of its time. Not only is the company continuing to pioneer the trend of Americans opting to "save a stamp" and pay their bills online. The company is also one of the few that ends its fiscal year smack-dab in the middle of the calendar year. Meaning, of course, that with six months still to go till calendar year 2006, it's already time to check in on the company and see how fiscal 2005 wrapped up.

The company grew its core business of processing payment transactions by 55% over the past 12 months, closing out the year with 905 million transactions processed. However, with the growing commoditization of bill-paying services, even an arguable best-in-class player such as CheckFree has to expect some pricing pressures. And indeed, revenue per transaction has fallen 13% over the past year.

As a result, the company's revenue growth rate didn't quite keep up with the increase in transaction volume -- although the 25% increase CheckFree did post was still none too shabby. Moreover, although per-transaction revenues declined, the company did an admirable job of squeezing maximum profits out of the dollars it did take in. One year ago, CheckFree earned $10.5 million on $606.5 million in sales. Fiscal 2005 saw that net rise roughly 350% to $46.8 million.

More remarkable for a highly profitable tech company, CheckFree kept the lid on its options program, allowing the diluted share count to increase just 1% over the past year. That helped CheckFree duplicate its company-wide 350% profits increase on the per-share level, as well.

And now for the caveats
Caveat No. 1: In one respect, the company's free cash flow didn't perform quite as well as did GAAP profits in 2005; free cash flow rose just 16% year over year.

Anti-caveat No. 1: In another respect, free cash flow positively shined. Putting aside the growth race for a moment, as an absolute figure, CheckFree posted GAAP net profits of $46.8 million in fiscal 2005. Compare that to the company's $172 million in free cash flow, and it's clear that this business is generating way more cash than the GAAP numbers show.

Caveat No. 2: Stock dilution was a little worse than the 1% that I mentioned above. Actually, "1%" was the amount that CheckFree's diluted share count increased after the company spent $33.5 million buying back its stock. Pre-buyback, I estimate CheckFree diluted at closer to 2% (which, honestly, is still pretty tame, coming from a profitable tech company).

Want a more intensive, quarter-by-quarter recap of how CheckFree's year went? Read:

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of CheckFree.