MELVILLE, N.Y. (AP) ¿ MSC Industrial Direct Co., which distributes maintenance and repair supplies, said Wednesday its fiscal fourth-quarter profit fell 49 percent as sales tumbled as a result of extended shutdowns at the company's customers.

But the shutdowns weren't as bad as expected, and MSC's results beat analysts' predictions. The company also issued a strong first-quarter guidance.

MSC shares rose $2.06, or 4.6 percent, to $47.38 in midday trading. They hit a 52-week high of $49.25 earlier in the day, eclipsing a previous peak of $46.84 set on Monday.

For the quarter ended Aug. 29, MSC earned $26 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with $50.5 million, or 80 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

Sales dropped 21 percent to $354.1 million from $448.6 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of 36 cents per share on $343.4 million in sales.

MSC said that although the company experienced extended shutdowns by its customers during the period, they were not as severe as originally expected. As a result, the quarter's results were better than expected.

For the full year 2009, MSC earned $125.1 million, or $2 per share, down from $196.2 million, or $3.04 per share, in fiscal 2008.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.