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MarchFirst misses again, cuts sales targets

The Internet consulting company posts a wider-than-expected loss in its fourth quarter and lowers its sales estimates for the first quarter of fiscal 2001.

    Internet consulting company 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 consensus pegged the company for a loss of 30 cents a share on sales of $249 million.

    MarchFirst shares closed up 16 cents to $2.50 ahead of the earnings report and fell to $1.63 a share in after-hours trading.

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

    Since November 2000, MarchFirst has laid off 2,100 employees as it has battled to reach profitability.

    "We continued to see demand slow throughout the fourth quarter," Chief Executive Officer Robert Bernard said in a statement. "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 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."