AltaVista’s IPO (initial public offering) has been postponed again.

The search engine and portal company said it would postpone its IPO, scheduled for this week, due to last weeks drop in the Nasdaq.

David Emanuel, AltaVista's director of communications, using a baseball analogy, said: "We're on a rain delay." He added: "We're still suited up - we're still in the dugout."

Dot com jitters This isn't the first time AltaVista has had to step back from the public market. In October 1997, then-parent Digital Equipment (DEC) withdrew AltaVista's IPO registration statement, saying it would integrate the search engine into DEC's products division as part of its effort to focus on Internet business solutions.

AltaVista is not the only firm to delay its IPO in the wake of the Nasdaq’s fall. Spanish-language portal, career-site, and Internet professional-services firm Zefer, which were scheduled to go public this week, have all decided to wait out the storm. ISky, an Internet customer-service firm, and Certicom, a maker of security technology for wireless devices, withdraw their registration statements altogether.

After Compaq bought DEC in 1998, the PC maker prepared AltaVista to join the ranks of full-fledged portals. It signed content deals and bought both the e-commerce service, and the Zip2 city-search site. In early 1999, Compaq announced that it would spin off AltaVista with the intention of filing for an IPO later in the year. Instead, the company sold the portal to CMGI last April for $2.3 billion.

Re-style Since then, AltaVista has overhauled its image as a consumer portal, unveiling a new look and launching a $120 million advertizing campaign in October. Despite these efforts, AltaVista still trails the pack. Its 12.3 million monthly visitors lag behind Yahoo's 45.5 million, MSN's 35.8 million and Lycos' 26.9 million, according to February data from Media Metrix.

Lately, even the market leaders have seen share prices fall. In midday trading, Yahoo dipped 4 per cent to $111.69, Lycos dropped more than 2 per cent to $37.50, and ExciteAtHome was down nearly 10 per cent to $19.63.

Despite the anticipation for the stock offering, some investors applauded the postponement. One investor, "BULLJR," wrote to thank CMGI Chairman David Wetherell and AltaVista Chief Executive Officer Rod Schrock "for seeing that this stock sits on shelf a bit longer".

AltaVista had filed to sell 14.8 million shares of common stock at an expected price of $18 to $20 a share.