Cable and online shopping network ShopNBC has improved business operations by many measures -- except the most important one: The Eden Prairie-based company still isn't profitable.

Parent company ValueVision Media Inc. said Tuesday that it posted a fourth-quarter loss of $8.8 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with a loss of $43.8 million in the same period last year. Sales increased 7.4 percent, to $155.3 million.

For the year, ShopNBC lost $42 million, or 45 cents a share, slashing last year's $97.8 million loss. Sales fell 7 percent, to $528 million. The company hasn't turned an annual profit since 2001.

Shares took a daylong dive, dropping about 12 percent to close at $3.49.

In a conference call with analysts, ShopNBC CEO Keith Stewart called the fourth quarter "a turning point," and 2009 a "transformational year."

During the year ShopNBC reduced operating expenses 21 percent, improved gross profit margins 70 basis points, attracted more new customers and reduced the portion of returned merchandise from 31 percent to 21 percent.

The company did not provide guidance for 2010.

ShopNBC, which reaches 75 million homes through cable and satellite TV, is the nation's third-largest home shopping network behind QVC and HSN.

The company surpassed the million-customer mark during the quarter and for the year grew its online sales to 34 percent of overall sales.

JACKIE CROSBY