CNet Networks ( CNET) beat Wall Street's sales forecast for the December quarter late Monday, and offered a bullish revenue outlook for the full year. CNet shares added 34 cents to $8.74, tacking on another 4.1%, in recent late trading. For the fourth quarter, the San Francisco-based online media firm said it earned $6.3 million, or 4 cents a share, falling from $20.7 million, or 13 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Excluding items like stock compensation expenses, stock options investigation costs and loss from discontinued operations, among other items, CNet earned $19.6 million, or 13 cents a share vs. $23.3 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 12 cents a share. The consensus estimate reflects adoption of FAS123, which includes stock-based compensation. On the top line, CNet reported $118.4 million, up from $103.7 million in the same period last year and above the average analyst expectation of $111.8 million. Looking ahead to the first quarter, CNet expects sales between $90 million and $94 million, bracketing the average analyst outlook of $91.8 million. CNet expects a loss between 3 cents and 6 cents a share for the first quarter. Without compensation expenses, it forecast a loss of 2 cents a share to break-even.
The average analyst forecast is for a loss of 3 cents a share. For the full year, CNet sees revenue between $425 million and $445 million. Analysts had pegged the company to hit the low end of that range with sales of $426.5 million. EPS for 2007 should range from 12 cents to 22 cents a share including stock compensation expenses, and be between 27 cents and 37 cents a share without it. The consensus had expected the company to earn 20 cents a share in 2007. Separately, the company said it has concluded its stock options backdating investigation. CNet said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has "corrected the measurement date for approximately 40.8 million options out of a total of 73.8 million options granted from July 1996 through December 2005, with substantially all these corrections relating to options granted prior to Dec. 31, 2003." CNet has restated its historical financial statements to reflect the results of its options investigations investigation, recording noncash, stock compensation charges of $105.7 million associated with soptions grants made from 1996 through 2005. "In addition to measurement date corrections, management also identified instances where we incorrectly accounted for certain option grants that were modified after the grant date," CNET said. Previously, the company said that "a number of executives of the company, including the former CFO and the recently resigned CEO, General Counsel, and Senior Vice President of Human Resources, bear varying degrees of responsibility for the deficiencies in the process by which options were granted." "The Special Committee did not conclude that any current employees or recently resigned employees of the Company engaged in intentional wrongdoing," CNET said.