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Monster posts 4Q loss, sale prospects weak

NEW YORK (AP) -- Monster Worldwide Inc. shares sank Thursday as the online job search company reported a fourth-quarter loss, exited some overseas markets and suggested it is having trouble finding a buyer for all or parts of the rest of the company.

Its shares dropped almost 7 percent by midafternoon after briefly touching a new low earlier in the day.

The company has struggled for some time with the impact of the tough economy. Customers are hiring fewer people and carefully controlling where they spend money, sometimes opting for other services to find new employees.

Monster has slashed jobs and cut other costs to cope. It exited operations in Brazil, Mexico and Turkey and said Thursday that it completed the sale of its business in China to Saongroup, keeping a 10 percent stake.

While the company hired outside consultants last year to review its strategic alternatives, finding a solid buyer for its larger business has remained a challenge.

"It's certainly slower than I would have anticipated," Sal Iannuzzi, the company's chairman, president and CEO, told investors during a call Thursday. "I certainly can't guarantee that there's anything of interest or an expression of interest that is appropriate for us to bring to our board for consideration."

Iannuzzi said the company has cast a wide net. While there are no clear leaders yet, he said it will respond quickly if an opportunity arises.

Monster reported a loss of $73 million, or 66 cents per share, for its fiscal fourth quarter. That's compared with net income of $10.9 million, or 9 cents per share, a year ago. The most recent quarter included pre-tax charges of $23 million. After adjusting for that, it earned 8 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected earnings of 7 cents per share.

Its revenue fell 10 percent to $211.2 million from $234.8 million. Monster said that its bookings, the value of all orders received in the quarter, fell 13 percent due to weakness in Europe. Analysts had expected revenue of $211.9 million.

The company said it expects to earn 6 to 10 cents per share for the first quarter from continuing operations. Analysts expect 8 cents per share,

Shares fell 40 cents, or 6.8 percent, to $5.45 in afternoon trading after falling as low as $5.01 earlier. That is its all-time low, according to FactSet. Its stock has fallen since the beginning of 2011 when it was trading near $20.