Benefitfocus sales up 29%; loss widens

Benefitfocus plans to add 1,200 jobs and a big slug of office space at its Daniel Island campus.

Revenue at Charleston-based software firm Benefitfocus Inc. jumped 29 percent in the first quarter while its loss widened, reflecting its focus on sales growth over profits.

CEO Shawn Jenkins said in a statement that the results represented a strong start to the year and "were above the high end of our guidance on both the top and bottom line."

The Daniel Island company said last week that sales increased to $30.7 million from the January-March period last year. The net loss for the quarter more than doubled to $12.4 million from $5.6 million in the first three months of 2013.

Benefitfocus is a fast-growing provider of online workplace benefits software. Big insurance carriers and more than 418 large employers use its one-stop, cloud-based platform to shop for, enroll in and manage their health care policies and other job perks.

The company, which went public in 2013, provided financial guidance for the rest of this year. It expects an annual net loss of $59 million to $63 million on sales of $130.6 million to $134.6 million.

Benefitfocus introduced new applications and products at its annual "One Place" conference last week in Charleston.

In December, the company announced a $60 million expansion that could create up to 1,200 jobs at its Daniel Island campus. The first phase shows a 145,000-square-foot customer training and support office off Fairchild Street that would house up to 600 workers. A second building of equal size would follow later for 600 software engineers, designers and other technical staffers Benefitfocus plans to hire.

The company's shares have been falling in recent months after peaking at $77, reflecting the broader downturn in U.S. tech stocks. Benefitfocus closed Friday at $29.88.