Women’s apparel and accessories retailer Bebe Stores Inc. (BEBE) recently reported fourth-quarter results and guided to a bleak first quarter amid a turbulent environment and slumping sales.

The company’s quarterly earnings excluding one-time items came in at 4 cents a share. While it comfortably surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of one cent, earnings fell drastically from 18 cents reported in the prior-year quarter.

On a reported basis, Bebe delivered breakeven earnings, including employee acquisition and termination costs, asset write-downs and write-offs. Management expects earnings before write-offs to be between breakeven and a loss of 5 cents a share in the first quarter of fiscal 2010.

The slump in demand has prompted management to lower inventories, close stores and reduce wages to mitigate costs. Bebe closed eight stores in fiscal year 2009 and plans to close up to 13 more in fiscal year 2010.

The company’s sales continue to fall at an accelerating rate. After falling 10.5% and 15.8% in the second and third quarters of 2009, respectively, total revenue slid 24.1% to $130.2 million for the latest quarter from $171.5 million in the year-ago period. In line with revenue, same-store sales are also falling rapidly. Same-store sales declined 20.1% and 23.5% in the second and third quarters, respectively, and further to 29.6% in the fourth quarter versus 5.6% decline in the last year. However, management expects comps to ease up in the first quarter of fiscal year 2010.

Bebe also lowered its quarterly dividend by 50% to 2.5 cents from 5 cents. Capital expenditures for fiscal year 2010 are expected to be $20 million, down from $29 million in fiscal year 2009.

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