Bucking the tech trend, five-year-old electronic trader AltraEnergy Technologies Inc., coming off a year of trading and revenueincreases, expects to make it into the black in this first quarterof 2001.

“We were here before the Internet, we lived through the Internetbrowser-based tech explosion, and we’re still here at the backend,” said Altra CEO Paul Bourke.

“Despite an increase in competition from significant industryplayers, we experienced our best year ever throughout all divisionsof the company.” Both trading exchange volumes and software saleswere up significantly in 2000, he added. While not divulgingoverall trade volumes, Bourke said natural gas volumes traded onAltra Market Place (formerly Altrade) were up by more than 35% in2000 over 1999. The company set an all-time monthly record for theplatform in December with more than 8,000 natural gas trades.

Among the “many-to-many” platforms (as opposed to theone-to-many, i.e. EnronOnline), Altra estimates it had about 90% ofthe electronic natural gas business, 100% of the natural gasliquids online trades and 60% of power trades. Bourke noted thatsome of his new competition, ICE, TradeSpark and TrueQuote, hadonly come online in the fourth quarter. “Over the first six monthsof this year, we’ll get a better feel for the growth of the onlinemarket share and how it will be distributed among the differentsystems.”

As for the overall market share of online trading (includingEnronOnline) vs. voice/broker deals in 2000, Bourke said hebelieved about 30% of natural gas trading, over 50% of gas liquidstrading and 6% to 8% of power trading occurred online. He believesthose percentages will increase and also that more financialtrading instruments will move into the online market.

The next movement will be toward integrated and back officeproducts, an area where Altra claims to be the “only energytechnology company that provides both an independent online tradingexchange and software products to help process the deal fromtrading to scheduling to risk management to accounting.” Thecompany said its revenue from software increased 15% year over yearas it picked up new customers from among major trading companies.

NGL trading on Altra continues to be strong, with more than 250million bbl traded in 2000.

While its Altra ePower gained 725% in one year of trading andset a company record last October of 21.4 million MWh traded, thenumbers should increase after the launch of a fully web-based powerplatform in 1Q 2001, the company said.

While its venture capital backers, Battery Ventures and AustinVentures, remain firmly committed to Altra, the company will beworking to strengthen its bottom line, looking toward an eventualinitial public offering. “The view of the capital market haschanged radically in the last six months. Before there was verylittle regard for the bottom line. They now are looking forbusinesses more in line with traditional companies. The good newsis we will be profitable this quarter and expect to remainprofitable. This is in line with the public company mindset,”Bourke said. There could be a window of opportunity for an IPOeither in the second half of this year or the first half of nextyear. “We will be concentrating on growing and increasing ourprofits to be in a position to have that alternative when themarkets open up.”

Ellen Beswick

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