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UTi posts 4th-quarter loss and shares sink

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- UTi Worldwide Inc. on Thursday posted a loss for its fiscal fourth quarter, citing touch economic conditions and weakness in the air freight market.

UTi shares sank more than 3 percent in afternoon trading.

CEO Eric Kirchner said that competition in the industry is the toughest he has seen in many years. While the company secured new business in the fourth quarter, declines in net revenue from its existing accounts more than offset that. He said pressure from the sluggish economy and air freight market are weighing on the company more than previously anticipated.

Kirchner said the company is cutting costs and taking steps to improve growth, including changes in its sales organization.

"We are not anticipating help from the market, but we are executing on the things we can control," he said in a statement.

UTi reported a net loss of $142.8 million, or $1.38 per share, for the period that ended Jan. 31. That compares with profit of $12.4 million, or 12 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of the prior year. Excluding one-time items, the loss was 13 cents per share.

Revenue fell nearly 5 percent to $1.10 billion.

The earnings fell far short of market expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected the company to earn 13 cents per share on revenue of $1.08 billion.

UTi shares fell 50 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $14.26. The stock has traded between $12.31 and $17.91 in the past 52 weeks.