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Books-A-Million beats Street in 4Q

Books-A-Million tiptoed past analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Wednesday, earning $6.5 million, or 36 cents a share, on sales of $138 million.

First Call consensus expected the online bookseller to earn 35 cents a share in the quarter.

Its shares closed up 1/4 to 7 3/8 ahead of the earnings report.

The $138 million in sales represents an 18 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it also earned $6.5 million, or 36 cents a share, on sales of $117 million.

For the year, Books-A-Million (Nasdaq: BAMM) raked in $5.9 million, or 33 cents a share, on sales of $404 million, up 16 percent from fiscal 1998 when it earned $4.5 million, or 26 cents a share, on sales of $348 million.

In the quarter, comparable store sales improved 10 percent.

" also concluded a successful year," said CEO Clyde Anderson in a prepared release. "Our investments in our direct-to-consumer fulfillment operations and in our web development subsidiary assured the smooth processing of our customers' orders during the demanding fourth quarter."

Its shares moved up to a 52-week high of 16 5/8 in July before falling to a low of 6 11/16 in February.

Both analysts covering the stock maintain a "hold" recommendation.