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MarchFirst misses again, cuts Q1 targets

    Internet consulting firm MarchFirst posted a wider-than-expected loss in its fourth quarter and lowered its sales estimates for the first quarter of fiscal 2001.

    In the quarter, MarchFirst posted a loss of $73.2 million, or 40 cents a share, on sales of $213.5 million.

    First Call Corp. consensus pegged it for a loss of 30 cents a share on sales of $249 million.

    MarchFirst (Nasdaq: MRCH) shares closed up 16 cents to $2.50 ahead of the earnings report before falling to $1.63 a share in after-hours trading.

    Company executives blamed the shortfall on slowing demand from Internet customers as well deteriorating economic conditions throughout the industry.

    Since November, MarchFirst has laid off 2,100 employees as the company battles to reach profitability.

    "We continued to see demand slow throughout the fourth quarter," said Chief Executive Officer Robert Bernard in a prepared release. "We believe our clients are committed to their strategic business initiatives, yet concern over the recent economic slowdown has caused them to spend cautiously."

    Bernard told analysts to expect first-quarter sales of between $190 million and $215 million and loss of between 22 cents and 31 cents a share.

    Analysts were forecasting a loss of 6 cents a share on sales of $267.8 million.

    MarchFirst also missed analysts' estimates in its third quarter when it posted a profit of $2 million, or 1 cent a share, on sales of $369.4 million.

    The stock moved as high as $52.25 back in March before falling to a low of $1 a share in November.

    Twelve of the 21 analysts tracking the stock rate it a "hold."