Atmel Corp. (ATML) reported fourth-quarter loss, but the loss was better than expected, leading shares to rise in after-hours trading.

The chip maker saw a loss of $76.9 million or 17 cents a share, which compares to a year ago when the company reported a loss of $24.4 million or 5 cents a share.

Adjusted earnings rose to 4 cents a share, up from a penny per share in the year-ago quarter. The results beat expectations, as analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were only expecting the company to break even, on an adjusted basis.

Revenue improved 2.7% to $343.6 million, up 8% compared to a year ago when the company saw sales of  $317 million.

"We are pleased to have delivered revenue growth and gross profit expansion that exceeded the upper end of our guidance range this quarter as demand strengthened and factory utilizations improved," said Steve Laub, Atmel's president and chief executive officer, in a statement. "Microcontroller sales of 8- and 32-bit products, as well as our capacitive touch solutions, grew strongly as we continued to outperform the market. Based on our solid design win momentum and booking activity we are excited about the outlook for 2010, particularly for our microcontroller and touch products."

Shares of Atmel Corp. fell a penny or 0.21% in Monday’s session to close at $4.80 a share.