forecast@ (Adds forecast, CEO comments, share price)
TORONTO, March 27 (Reuters) - Canadian yoga and leisure-apparel maker Lululemon Athletica on Tuesday posted a surprisingly strong fourth-quarter profit and forecast further growth in the first quarter, sending its shares surging in after-hours trading.
The Vancouver-based company estimated first-quarter earnings of 44 to 46 cents per share on revenue of $612 million to $617 million. That compares with per-share adjusted earnings of 32 cents on revenue of $520.3 million a year earlier.
The stock jumped 8.9 percent in after-hours trading, after ending 2 percent lower at $78.71.
The gains came as Lululemon navigates top-management changes following the abrupt resignation of Chief Executive Laurent Potdevin last month on undisclosed charges of misconduct.
The company is continuing its CEO search and has had "a number of great candidates," Chairman Glenn Murphy, who became executive chairman on Potdevin's departure, said on a teleconference on Tuesday.
Lululemon, which popularized "athleisure wear" by turning pricey women's yoga wear into mainstream fashion, is seeking to shore up profits as it faces growing competition from brands including Under Armour Inc, Nike Inc and Gap Inc . It has restructured its money-losing Ivivva brand, turning it into a primarily e-commerce operation, boosted investment in its online and international businesses and expanded its men's offerings.
Total comparable store sales rose 7 percent, while rising sales in the e-commerce business contributed to 44 percent revenue growth in the direct-to-consumer business, the company said in a statement.
It reported adjusted earnings of $1.33 per share in the three months ended Jan. 28, up from $1 a year earlier as revenue increased 18 percent to $928.8 million. Including the effect of restructuring charges and the U.S. tax overhaul, net income fell to $119.8 million, or $88 cents per share, from $136.1 million, or 99 cents, a year earlier.
Analysts had expected adjusted net income of $1.27 per share, and revenue of $912.4 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Will Dunham and Richard Chang)