What happened

Shares of 51job, Inc. (NASDAQ:JOBS) were up 19.3% as of 3 p.m. Friday EST after the Chinese online recruiting services company announced strong fourth-quarter results.

More specifically, 51job's revenue climbed 25.6% year over year to $134 million, well above guidance for $124 million to $127 million. That translated to 48.4% growth in adjusted net income to $49.7 million, or $0.77 per share, also above expectations for earnings of $0.64 per share.

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So what

"We are very pleased to deliver robust fourth quarter results that cap off a memorable 2017 highlighted by terrific sales execution and productivity," stated 51job CEO Rick Yan. "Our online business maintained solid growth, which was again realized through not only new employer additions but also increased spending by existing employers."

To be sure, 51job's average revenue per unique employer climbed 11.5% year over year, driven by successful up-selling efforts. And the number of unique employers using its services grew 10% year over year, to 370,746.

Now what

For the first quarter of 2018, 51job expects revenue in the range of $116 million to $120.7 million -- or growth of 25.3% at the midpoint over the prior-year period -- which should translate to adjusted earnings per share in the range of $0.43 to $0.48. By contrast, and keeping in mind 51job has a tendency to underpromise and overdeliver, most analysts were modeling first-quarter earnings of $0.55 per share on sales near the low end of the company's range.

In the end, there was little not to like about this report as 51job effectively sustained its platform's upward momentum. And it's no surprise to see the stock trading at a fresh all-time high in response.

Steve Symington has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends 51job. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.