* Q4 EPS $1.00 vs est of $0.98
* Q4 rev rises 4 pct $288.7 mln
* Sees weak Q1
* Expects challenging retail environment to continue
* Shares slump 40 pct in after-hours trading
March 4 Children's clothing retailer Gymboree Corp GYMB.O forecast a weak first quarter, and said it expects the current challenging retail selling environment to continue throughout fiscal 2009, slamming its shares down 40 percent.
The company, which operates Janie and Jack stores as well as its namesake Gymboree chain, however, reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, helped by higher sales and a lower tax rate.
For the first quarter, the San Francisco-based company expects comparable store sales to decline in the range of 20 percent to 25 percent, amid the weak retail environment.
Gymboree sees first-quarter earnings of 18 cents to 25 cents a share. Analysts on average were expecting 77 cents, excluding items, according to Reuters Estimates.
Fourth-quarter net income came in at $29.5 million, or $1 per share, compared with net income of $26.8 million, or 93 cents per share, last year.
The tax rate for the quarter was 33.2 percent compared with 39.8 percent in the prior year.
Shares of the company fell to $13.69 in trading after the bell. They closed down 6 percent at $22.66 Wednesday on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Mihir Dalal in Bangalore; Editing by Deepak Kannan)
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