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GeoCities Tops This Week's IPOs

A struggling IPO market could get a boost this week as a host of Internet companies led by the much-hyped GeoCities are scheduled to debut on the U.S. stock market.

On Monday, Santa Monica, Calif.-based GeoCities and lead underwriter Goldman Sachs upped the expected price range of the 4.75 million share offering to $16 to $18 from the $12 to $14 range listed in the company's earlier IPO filings

"Considering we had a 4 percent recovery in the Russell 2000 on Thursday and Friday, we're setting ourselves up for a lot better IPO market than last week, which was horrendous," said Mark Basham, new issue analyst for Standard & Poor's. The Russell 2000 is an index of small-company stocks.

The health of the IPO market, since it's typically full of small-cap stocks, often tracks the performance of small-cap indexes like the Russell 2000.

Last week, only six companies managed to price their deals, raising a meager $256.5 million in gross proceeds. But Basham said excitement over the scheduled Internet deals could revive investor attention.

"If enough people are willing to buy into Internet mania, and I anticipate a lot of that will be funneled into GeoCities, then it could last," he said.

GeoCities, expected to start trading Tuesday, has received most of the attention in the IPO market because it's the only one of the top 10 most heavily-trafficked Web sites that isn't part of a public company. To date, the company has had trouble squeezing significant revenue out of its 1.9 million members, who create personal home pages within theme "neighborhoods" on GeoCities.

For the first quarter of the year, the company generated revenue of $2.2 million, or about $1.15 per subscriber. Nearly all of that comes from advertising. America Online, by contrast, generated about $58 per subscriber in revenue for the first quarter, while The Wall Street Journal sold $623 worth of ads per subscriber last year.

According to Francis Gaskins, editor of Gaskins IPO Desktop, GeoCities' primary competitors, such as Lycos' Tripod, Xoom and Theglobe.com, have been gaining on GeoCities in terms of traffic, as measured by Media Metrix. "That's not a leadership role that deserves a big stock market premium," he said.

Theglobe.com, which has filed for its own IPO, said in its prospectus that 6.1 million unique visitors came to its site in June, about 40 percent of what GeoCities reported.

GeoCities counts CMG Information Services as its largest shareholder. CMG is also a major investor in Lycos, which recently bought GeoCities competitor Tripod. Softbank, an investor in Ziff-Davis, Yahoo! and E-Trade, also owns a 35 percent stake of the company.

Other Internet deals this week include advertising player 24/7 Media, local guide producer CitySearch and software developer Digital River.

Basham's favorite stock is CitySearch, which gets most of its revenue from creating and maintaining Web sites for small businesses. B>"Very few small business have their own Web sites. It's a wide-open market," he said.

It's also a highly competitive one, with numerous online yellow page Web sites doing the same thing. Microsoft and America Online also have major local site initiatives. USA Networks owns 17 percent of CitySearch.

Written By Darren Chervitz