For no concrete reason, Bottomline Technologies Inc. has won the hearts and minds of the investment community.

The provider of corporate payment software saw its stock price soar as high as $98 a share in trading that was 50 times normal volume last Tuesday. It closed Friday at $77tk, up xx% from the preceding week.

The Portsmouth, N.H., company went public Feb. 12 at $13 a share, raising $29 million.

"For whatever reason, the retail community got ahold of it, deciding they wanted to love it and run it all the way up," said Stephen C. Franco, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Inc. in Minneapolis.

He pointed out that institutional buyers were not driving the movement and speculated that Bottomline's ticker symbol, EPAY, may have cast the company as a "real sexy on-line Internet play."

In fact, the Internet is only a small part of Bottomline's story, he said.

The company develops software for banks and corporations that simplifies payments and collections. Companies can manage a variety of payment types, such as payroll and accounts payable, and they can control whether these occur in paper or electronic format. A new product lets corporations transmit payment information over the Internet or intranets.

The run-up in the stock price does not appear to be related to any impending news, Mr. Franco said.

Robert Eberle, Bottomline's chief financial officer and treasurer, said he would not discuss the company's stock price movements.

He said the public offering has helped Bottomline achieve its primary objective, which is to "increase our visibility with our target audience of customers."

He mentioned that Daniel McGurl, Bottomline's president and chief executive officer, appeared briefly last Tuesday on a CNBC television show, which could have fueled investor optimism.

Bottomline's net income rose 139% during the six months that ended Dec. 31, to $1.5 million. Revenues were up 34% during that time, to $18.1 million.

The company's PayBase software is well positioned, said Gary Craft, an analyst at BancBoston Robertson Stephens. It lets corporations deal in the "old world environment" of paper checks while simultaneously helping them move to electronic payment methods.

Customers include Bankers Trust Co., Bank of New York, Charles Schwab & Co., and Nissan Motor Acceptance.

Last year, the Federal Reserve licensed Bottomline's software to equip 2,000 banks with the ability to interpret formatted remittance information sent with automated clearing house payments.

BancBoston Robertson Stephens, Bottomline's lead underwriter, initiated coverage of the company March 10 when the stock was trading at $30 a share. Mr. Craft gave Bottomline a "buy" rating and a price target of $45 a share.

"We thought we set a reasonable price target on the stock," Mr. Craft said.

"It's clear there are some individual investors that are behind this thing," he added. "Institutions were really buying in the $15 to $30 range."

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