LookSmart: Organisation the Key to Profits

"We need to get big quick . . . and keep growing as fast as we can," said Thornley, at the beginning of a local visit to promote the company's compliance listing on the ASX.

As a result, investors can expect to see some "pretty bold moves on the acquisition front", he said.

And displaying the business sense that has seen his personal wealth increase almost ten-fold in the last 12 months, Thornley would not rule out the acquisition of LookSmart by another company if the price was right.

The LookSmart Internet directory attracts 65 million users worldwide. Of those, 45 million are based in the US and provide more than 90 per cent of the company's income.

Revenues reached $US48.9 million last year, although the company made a net loss of $US74.5 million. Thornley said he expects to turn a profit by the end of 2001.

The compliance listing would see the company jointly listed on the Nasdaq and the ASX, making it easier for Australians to trade in the stock. While the company will not be selling any new shares as part of the local listing, the move would make it easier for LookSmart to raise funds through the local market in the future.

Thornley expects the compliance listing to increase the liquidity of LookSmart's stock as early Australian investors Mezzanine Investments and Macquarie Bank sell their shares, which have netted them a return of almost 100 times what they paid for them.

"While we already have a lot of Australian shareholders, there are a lot of other institutions and individuals that we believe would like to take an interest in the company," Thornley said, speaking from the US last week.

The company will float between $150 million and $200 million worth of shares, which are set to start trading on the ASX next Wednesday. The stock will be priced at 20 times less than the company's ordinary Nasdaq shares -- priced at about $US33 -- which would translate to a local price of around $2.44. The company has forecast the stock price to increase to $4.47 within 12 months.

Thornley said it was a fundamental part of the company's strategy to build its profile as a provider of search and navigation tools to other Websites, as well as building on the www.looksmart.com brand.

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David Smedley

PC World

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