Yahoo lost $303M, but that's better than expected

Yahoo YHOO reported a fourth-quarter loss Tuesday, but the results weren't as bad as Wall Street analysts feared.

The Silicon Valley company said it lost $303 million, or 22 cents per share, because of costs to cover layoffs and bum investments. In the year-ago quarter, Yahoo earned $206 million, or 15 cents. If not for restructuring charges this quarter, Yahoo said it would have earned 17 cents per share — besting the average estimate of 13 cents per share among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue dipped 1%, to $1.8 billion, from a year ago.

The better-than-expected results were a respite for Yahoo, whose struggles predate the economic downturn that has claimed thousands of high-tech jobs, including 1,500 at Yahoo.

"This is a fantastic Internet company that does not need to be pulled apart," Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz told analysts in a conference call Tuesday. "I didn't come here to sell the company." She did not, however, rule out selling assets of Yahoo.

"The bigger question (about Yahoo) remains, what's the major surgery this patient is going to undergo?" independent analyst Jonathan Yarmis says.

The beleaguered company announced results after markets closed. Yahoo shares, which edged up 1.5% during regular trading, climbed another 4.9%, to $11.89, after hours.

The results for the end of last year are the first Yahoo has announced since it named Bartz as CEO this month. Bartz, who oversaw breakneck revenue growth during her decade-plus as CEO at software maker Autodesk, has already imposed a salary freeze at Yahoo.

Bartz inherits a company faced with a 10% workforce reduction; the ongoing online ad dominance of Google; and the imminent departure of President Susan Decker. Some analysts question how smoothly Bartz will work with Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, who's still a chief strategist.

Still, investors were encouraged that Yahoo's ad revenue — its main source of income — remained largely unchanged during the quarter, at $1.6 billion, despite the recession. Google's ad revenue rose 18%.

Yahoo cautioned that its first-quarter revenue will range from $1.53 billion to $1.73 billion — down from $1.82 billion last year. It did not project its earnings for the first quarter.