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LinkedIn's 2014 sales outlook disappoints. Reuters

LinkedIn's latest update of its 2014 sales outlook has fallen slightly short of market expectations, casting a shadow over upbeat first-quarter earnings.

The social network that connects professionals and prospective employers said it expects sales of between $2.06bn (£1.2bn, €1.9bn) and $2.08bn this year, trailing analysts' $2.11bn expectation.

LinkedIn also said it expects a revenue of between $500m and $505m this quarter, as against an average Wall Street forecast of $505.1m.

The company's stock shed 4.42% in after-hours trading on Thursday in New York, from a closing price of $161.22.

For the January-March first-quarter, LinkedIn logged a better-than-expected 46% increase in revenue to $473.2m, as against the $466.6m expected by analysts on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The firm reported non-GAAP earnings of 38 cents a share, higher than the 34 cents expected.

LinkedIn remains committed to achieving a 30% Ebitda profit margin, up from the current 25%, said chief financial officer Steve Sordello, without specifying a timeframe to hit that target.

China Push

In February, the firm launched a Chinese language version of its website.

LinkedIn's chief executive Jeff Weiner back then justified the move by pointing out that one out of every five professionals the worldover was based in China.

LinkedIn's membership rose 8.3% to 300 million worldwide from 277 million at the end of the fourth-quarter.

LinkedIn's fourth-quarter revenue missed Wall Street's target, the first time it had fallen short on a quarterly basis since it went public in 2011.