Netscape Communications announced a disappointing fourth quarter loss of $88.3 million, which was higher than expected. In the same quarter a year before, the company made $8.2 million. Revenue for the quarter was $125.3 million, up from $115 million a year before. Netscape said the loss included a $23 million charge to pay for layoffs.

"No one factor contributed to the revenue shortfall we experienced in the fourth quarter of 1997. Instead, a decline in stand-alone client revenue and slower than expected growth in our enterprise sales and support revenue left us short," said president and CEO Jim Barksdale.

For 1997, Netscape's reported a loss of $115 million on revenues of $554 million. The company attributes its problems to Microsoft, which sapped browser marketshare away by giving away Internet Explorer while Netscape was selling Navigator. This week, Netscape announced that it would give away its Web browsers once again.

Netscape, which currently employs about 3200 people, will be laying off approximately 400 employees this quarter, according to company spokesperson Jody Kramer. The company's stock has dropped from above $50 last summer to the $17 range this week