* Q4 EPS $0.41 vs est $0.40
* Q4 rev $6.46 bln vs est $6.45 bln
* Shares down 7 pct
Feb 29 (Reuters) - Staples Inc, the largest U.S. office supply chain, forecast lower-than-expected sales for the year, as its international business takes a hit from weak demand in Europe, sending its shares down 7 percent.
The company, which operates in 26 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, expects full-year sales to increase in the low single-digits, after fourth-quarter revenue outside the United States fell 5 percent.
In Europe, Staples sells to companies which are themselves grappling with slowing demand as a mix of inflation, high unemployment and government austerity keeps shoppers home.
However, a Staples executive said on a conference call with analysts, “Clearly (the international business) feels to us like a business that we need to fix, rather than a business that we need to be looking to get out of.”
Net income for the fourth-quarter rose to $283.6 million, or 41 cents a share, from $274.7 million, or 38 cents a share, a year ago.
Sales rose to $6.46 billion, while analysts expected about $6.45 billion.
Analysts, on average, were expecting a profit of 40 cents a share, before items, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Smaller rivals Office Depot Inc and OfficeMax Inc also reported better-than-expected earnings in the fourth quarter.
Shares of the company, which have shed about a quarter of their value over the last 12 months, were down at $14.91 on Wednesday morning on the Nasdaq.