Shares Sink at Blue Nile

The online jewelry retailer posts disappointing results for the holiday quarter.
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Shares of

Blue Nile

(NILE)

dropped sharply in late trading Tuesday after the online jewelry retailer posted weaker-than-expected results for the holiday quarter and issued a 2006 forecast below Wall Street's projection.

The company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $5.3 million, or 29 cents a share, up from $4.6 million, or 24 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 33 cents a share.

Blue Nile's sales rose to $73.2 million from $64.5 million, but were well below Wall Street's target of $80.3 million.

The company's outlook also disappointed Wall Street. For the quarter ending April 2, Blue Nile forecast earnings of 11 cents to 12 cents a share, with sales of $47 million to $49 million. The forecast include stock-option expenses of 3 cents to 4 cents a share. Analysts, meanwhile, had been expecting first-quarter earnings of 19 cents a share and sales of $54.1 million.

For all of 2006, Blue Nile sees earnings of 62 cents to 72 cents a share, including 14 cents to 16 cents in options costs. Analysts predict earnings of 99 cents a share, before options. The company forecast sales of $220 million to $245 million, below Wall Street's target of $258 million.

Blue Nile shares were down $6.91, or 19%, to $30.38 in after-hours trading.