* Q4 EPS $0.72 vs est $0.69
* Revenue fall 5 pct, miss estimates
* Sees sales, earnings to rise in FY 2010
March 9 (Reuters) - Stage Stores Inc (SSI.N) posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by better inventory management and cost controls, and forecast first-quarter earnings that could meet or beat analysts' expectations.
For the first quarter, the department-store operator expects a loss of 2 cents a share to a profit of 2 cents a share, on sales of $332 million to $339 million.
Analysts were expecting a loss of 2 cents a share on revenue of $336.7 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company also said it sees sales, earnings and operating margin to rise for fiscal 2010.
For the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30, the company earned $27.9 million, or 72 cents a share, compared with $25.3 million, or 67 cents a share, a year ago.
Revenue fell 5 percent to $431.7 million.
Analysts were expecting earnings of 69 cents a share, on revenue of $432.2 million.
Gross margin rose 180 basis points and selling, general and administrative expenses fell $2.1 million in the quarter.
Shares of the Houston-based company closed at $15.01 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Renju Jose in Bangalore; Editing by Ratul Ray Chaudhuri)