* Q3 EPS ex-items $0.01 vs $0.13 forecast
* Q3 revenue up 47 percent to $111 mln
* Raises 2017 revenue estimate to $423-$424 mln (Adds details, CFO comments, changes dateline from TEL AVIV)
By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Wix.com, which helps small businesses build and operate websites, raised its revenue outlook for 2017 due to a jump in conversions to paid products, after posting sharply lower than expected third-quarter profits.
Boosted by more users paying for web design products like Wix ADI, the company on Wednesday projected full year revenue of $423-$424 million for 47 percent growth over 2016, up from a prior forecast of $421 million-$423 million.
It reported third-quarter profit of 1 cent a share excluding one-time items, compared with a 4 cent loss a year earlier. Revenue grew 47 percent to $111 million. Operating expenses rose to $103.7 million from $73.6 million.
Wix was forecast to earn 13 cents a share on revenue of $110 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Chief Financial Officer Lior Shemesh attributed the profit miss to the company opting to use its revenue for marketing of a new product called Wix Code and for research and development.
“We prefer to invest in growth, which also increases our free cash flow,” he told Reuters. “We invested more in marketing because we beat our top line (revenue) and also invested more in R&D to be ready for (Wix Code).”
Israel-based Wix offers free basic features for setting up websites but users must pay for extra services such as shopping carts, individual web addresses and site traffic analysis.
It has 114 million users. During the quarter it converted 188,000 free users to paying -- up 33 percent over the prior year -- for a total of 3.1 million premium customers.
In the next few weeks, Wix Code will be launched and targeted towards professional web designers. Shemesh said 90 percent of websites are built by professionals.
“We are trying to capture the entire spectrum of the (web design) market,” he said, adding he expects further conversions to premium.
Wix Code is not expected to start generating cash until 2019, he said.
Shares of Nasdaq-listed Wix, which has a market value of $3.2 billion, are up 56 percent so far this year. Shemesh said that while Wix has generated $210 million of cash, the company was not in a hurry to make acquisitions.
Wix, he said, will not air a commercial during the Super Bowl in 2018 as it did this year due to shifting its marketing budget to other advertising.
For the fourth quarter Wix estimates revenue of $116-$117 million, up 38-39 percent from a year earlier. (Additional reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Angus MacSwan)