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Monster Reports 1Q Profit But Offers Weak 2Q Guidance

By Caitlin Nish Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Monster Worldwide Inc. (MWW) reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, due to strength in North America and higher bookings, but the operator of a jobs website projected current-quarter revenue below analysts estimates. Chief Executive Sal Iannuzzi said Monster was being prudent with its second-quarter guidance because of the possibility of some large U.S. government transactions slipping into the third quarter. "Our pipeline as it pertains to the U.S. government is, if not the most robust it's ever been, very close to it, but temporarily we could have some continued sluggisheness as it goes through the paces of the budget," he said. For the second quarter, Monster expects per-share earnings between 6 cents and 10 cents on revenue of $258 million to $269 million. Analysts, on average, expect earnings of 9 cents a share and revenue of $269 million, respectively, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters. Monster shares, down 25% this year, slipped 3.6% to $17.15 in after-hours trading. The company did reiterate its 2011 guidance, and Iannuzzi struck an optimistic tone, saying the overall recruitment and economic environment continue to improve. "Psychology is much more positive today than it was even a year ago. Last year at this time, we saw hiring and more positive sentiment in the U.S., but not in a significant way in Europe," Iannuzzi said. Now, momentum is growing in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia, he said. Specifically, he said, growth in the U.K. remains slower, but Germany is growing rapidly and the Netherlands is picking up. Monster struggled during the recession as companies around the world cut staff and slashed their recruiting budgets. But the company has seen its results improve lately, with revenue, bookings and deferred revenue all growing year-over-year in both the third and fourth quarters. Monster acquired HotJobs from Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) last year and struck a commercial traffic deal to provide career and job content on the Yahoo homepage in the U.S. and Canada, which significantly increased its U.S. customer base and talent pool. However, a weak first-quarter revenue forecast in January sent Monster's shares tumbling 25% in a single trading session, and they have yet to fully rebound. The stock continues to be pressured by concerns about the potential competitive threat from social networking sites. Iannuzzi said Thursday that Monster doesn't view social media as a threat but as an opportunity. "Over time you'll see Monster engage more and more and combine the strength of social media with the strength of our other products," he said, declining to offer specific details. For the quarter ended March 31, Monster posted a profit of $78,000, up from a loss of $24.2 million a year earlier. On a per-share basis, the company broke even, compared with a year-ago loss of 20 cents a share. The latest results included a pre-tax adjustment of $9.5 million, primarily related to HotJobs integration costs. Excluding items, Monster posted a profit of 5 cents a share, up from a loss of 14 cents a share. Revenue increased 23% to $264 million, excluding a $2.7 million accounting adjustment related to the acquisition of HotJobs, which it completed in August. Monster saw revenue rise in both its Careers-North America segment and Careers-International segment, up 28% and 25%, respectively. In January, Monster had forecast earnings per share of 1 cent to 4 cents on revenue of $254 million to $265 million. Monster said its first-quarter bookings, which represent the dollar value of contracts signed in the quarter and future revenue, increased 24% to $272 million. In January, Monster had projected bookings growth between 18% and 23%. Monster's results come as data Thursday show the number of idled U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly jumped last week, the latest sign that the labor market remains weak. Iannuzzi noted that it's easy to get discouraged if you look at it on a day-to-day basis, "but I think the overall direction of the economy will be very positive." -By Caitlin Nish, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2076; caitlin.nish@dowjones.com

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