Monster Worldwide cautious on 2012

Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:25am EST

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(Reuters) - Online recruitment firm Monster Worldwide Inc forecast a weak start to the year and said it will cut jobs, as it does not expect the global job market to improve drastically in the near term.

Shares of the company, which will reduce its global workforce by about 7 percent or 400 jobs, fell 15 percent on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

"The progress we saw in the fourth quarter was much slower than what we saw earlier in the year," Monster CEO Sal Iannuzzi told Reuters in an interview. "But the situation is not similar to 2008."

The uncertainty in Europe and the United States is making companies hold back and not commit as much as they normally would, he said.

Iannuzzi said the company, whose revenue mix is split evenly between the United States and the rest of the world, also saw some sluggishness in India and Korea. That will continue in to the first quarter, he said.

The staffing sector -- seen as a barometer of economic health -- has been hit by a slowdown in Europe and an uncertain recovery in the United States, where the unemployment rate currently stands at 8.5 percent.

WEAK FORECAST

The company, which runs the Monster.com recruiting website, expects first-quarter bookings -- an indicator of future revenue -- to drop 6 to 10 percent, and profit to be breakeven to 4 cents a share.

Analysts were estimating 9 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

It also expects to record a pre-tax charge of $30 million to $40 million mostly in the first quarter due to the job cuts and consolidation of some office facilities.

The company expects the restructuring to result in annual savings of about $100 million.

New York-based Monster's fourth-quarter profit was 11 cents a share and revenue was $250 million. Analysts were expecting 12 cents a share and $258.9 million.

Monster's shares, which have lost about a third of their value in the last 12 months, were trading down 14 percent at $7.77 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange. They touched a low of $7.67 earlier in the session.

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel, Supriya Kurane)

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