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VeriSign Swings To 4Q Loss On $109 Million Expense; Revenue Rises

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES VeriSign Inc. (VRSN) swung to a fourth-quarter loss as the Internet-domain company recorded a $109 million interest payment related to a special dividend it announced last month, a cost that masked higher revenue and operating margins. The company's adjusted profit and revenue growth narrowly exceeded Wall Street's expectations. VeriSign has shed more than a dozen businesses and thinned its employee ranks in recent years, but VeriSign's narrowed focus has made it more dependent on a mainstay Internet domain operation. VeriSign in August sold the identity authentication business to Symantec Corp. (SYMC) for $1.3 billion. That business had revenue of $410 million last year, or about 40% of VeriSign's total. On Thursday, VeriSign reported a loss of $40.5 million, or 23 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $93.4 million, or 49 cents a share. Excluding the payment related to the special dividend, stock-based compensation and other impacts, earnings rose to 31 cents from 17 cents. Revenue grew 13% to $178.8 million. Wall Street expected a profit of 30 cents on revenue of $178 million. Operating margin widened to 37.7% from 29.9%. VeriSign's domain-name business--which operates the registry for .com, .net and other domains--is based on a contract from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, overseen by the U.S. Commerce Department. The business remains the subject of a lawsuit originally filed in 2005, arguing the deal violates antitrust laws while artificially inflating prices. A trial involving the case is set for December. The company last month announced a $516 million special dividend, thanks largely to the business sale, and the company said it intends to return the rest of the deal's proceeds to shareholders eventually. Investment firm Wedbush Equity Research said that while the dividend cuts into cash, it expected the company will continue to repurchase shares, as the balance sheet remains strong. Shares fell 0.3% to $32.80 in after-hours trading. -By John Kell, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2480; john.kell@dowjones.com

Stock News for Verisign (VRSN)
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