Shares jump 6% in after-hours trading

Yahoo! is starting the year on an upswing, as its stock shot up 6% in after-hours trading following a better-than-expected earnings report and the announcement of a sooner-than-expected launch date for its ad platform.

Following a very tough 2006 that saw its stock fall 35% and several senior execs, including media topper Lloyd Braun, depart during a major reorg in December, Netco is looking to get back on a growth path matching those of rivals like Google and MySpace.

Revenue in the fourth quarter was up 13% from a year ago at $1.7 billion. For the full year, it was up 22% to $6.4 billion.

Net income was down 61% at $269 million, but the difference was due primarily to several one-time gains last year and the inclusion of stock option expenses this year. On an apples-to-apples basis, net income was up nearly 20%.

For the full year, net income was down 60% at $723 million — but up 12% on an apples-to-apples basis.

Company said it would launch its significantly delayed search advertising platform, code-named Panama, on Feb. 5 in the U.S., ahead of Wall Street’s revisited estimates. International advertisers will gain access to Panama next quarter.

Yahoo! is hoping that Panama will help it better compete with Google, which dominates the search marketing biz.

Guidance was relatively conservative. Netco is expecting revenue excluding payments to affiliates to rise from $4.56 billion last year to between $4.95 billion and $5.45 billion this year. Operating income is expected to go from $1.9 billion to between $1.95 billion and $2.2 billion.

Before earnings were announced, Yahoo! stock closed down 2% at $26.96 Tuesday.

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