Has buying postage stamps over the Internet finally caught on with consumers and businesses?

It appears so, looking at Stamps.com, the L.A.-based online seller of postage. For the last three quarters, Stamps.com’s earnings have beat analysts’ estimates as the company has boosted its subscriber base among large businesses, and reduced the rate of cancellations among its consumer and small-business customers. Both trends sent the company’s share price to a three-year peak of $16 on Oct. 29.

Shares have fallen back a bit this month on some profit taking, an analyst downgrade from “buy” to “neutral” and the announcement of a one-time $2-per-share cash dividend to investors. Shares closed Nov. 11 at $13.76. But even after the recent slide, the share price remained higher than it has been for most of the past year.

Stamps.com, which was founded in 1996, is one of a handful of companies in the online postage market. Customers who subscribe can print out stamps generated online or design their own. Few other companies have been willing or able to go through the multiyear approval process from the U.S. Postal Service to get permission to sell stamps online. Others include Stamford, Conn.-based Pitney Bowes Inc. and Endicia.com, a division of Atlanta’s Newell Rubbermaid Inc.

Stamps.com has been successful in its push for higher-volume business customers, especially large companies with multiple branch offices.

“Our high-volume shipper segment has continued to show good progress during the third quarter, growing 55 percent over last year,” said Ken McBride, Stamps.com’s chief executive in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

The company recently signed a deal with Amazon.com in which third-party sellers on Amazon can buy postage from Stamps.com when they ship to buyers.

These developments have impressed some analysts who had previously been cautious in their outlook for the company.

“This is the year where we believe new initiatives are beginning to show signs of success for the company,” said George Sutton, senior research analyst with Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC in Minneapolis.

Nevertheless, Sutton said the long-term question for Stamps.com is whether the now-tiny market for online postage will continue to grow.

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