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Tiffany Profit Beats View, Hikes Outlook

Reuters
Friday, 30 May 2008 | 11:01 AM ET

Tiffany posted higher-than-expected quarterly profit Friday, boosted by strong sales in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and to tourists at its Manhattan flagship store, and the U.S. jeweler raised its full-year outlook, pushing its shares up 4 percent.

Tiffany
AP
Tiffany

While the company expects worldwide sales, other than in Japan, to remain strong, it maintained a cautious stance on U.S. sales, which Chief Executive Michael Kowalski does not expect to improve until later this year.

In the reported quarter, U.S. same-store sales were flat with the year-ago period.

Sales on that basis were up 16 percent increase in its 5th Avenue flagship store, but dropped 4 percent in its other shops.

"Overall the entire U.S. store sales increase came from higher foreign tourist spending," spokesman Mark Aaron said in a conference call.

Tiffany , like more mid-tier rivals such as Zale and Finlay Enterprises , has gone through a rough patch due to the weak U.S. economy, but the jeweler said earlier in May that the year had gotten off to a "promising start."

U.S. shoppers have cut back on items like jewelry and furniture, as they spend carefully and largely on necessities with prices rising on food and gasoline.

In a statement, Chief Executive Michael Kowalski said Tiffany would continue with its expansion in 2008, with plans to open 24 new stores across the United States, Asia-Pacific region and Europe.

Though international markets remain strong, Credit Suisse analyst Paul Lejuez said his concern was partly about the U.S. market.

"We believe the U.S. business overall will continue (to) disappoint this year, driven by softness in the branches as well as in the New York City market where Wall Street layoffs are sure to have a negative impact," he said in a note.

Profit Shines, Outlook Up

Net profit came to $64.4 million, or 50 cents a share, in the quarter ended April 30 compared with $54.1 million, or 39 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Analysts on average expected 41 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Overall sales rose 12 percent to $668.1 million in the quarter.

On a constant currency basis, which excludes the effect of converting sales in foreign currency to U.S. dollars, sales were up 8 percent.

Sales were up 10 percent in the Asia-Pacific region and 30 percent in Europe, both on a constant currency basis.

In the Americas region, including the United States, Canada and South America, sales rose 6 percent, helped by new stores.

The company raised its full-year earnings forecast to a range of $2.80 to $2.90 a share.

It had previously expected to earn $2.75 to $2.85 a share.

Analysts expect it to earn $2.77 a share.

Tiffany stood by its sales outlook, which calls for 10 percent growth in the year.

While the company expects same-store sales to be slightly negative in the current quarter, it forecast a slight increase in the third quarter and a mid-single-digit increase in the final quarter of the year.

It also plans to open the first of its planned smaller format stores later this year in the United States.

Tiffany shares were up $1.93 at $49.67 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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