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Australia's Billabong Full-Year Profit Up 15%

Australian clothing retailer Billabong International reported a 15% rise in full-year profit on Friday as it continued an international expansion, and said it expected 15% earnings per share growth in fiscal 2008.

The clothing retailer, whose sales in the U.S. and Europe now exceed Australasian sales, said net profit in the year to June was a record A$167.3 million (US$137.1 million), up from A$145.7 million in the previous year.

That compares with analysts forecasts of A$169 million, according to a Reuters Estimates survey of nine brokers.

The surf and snow gear firm, which competes mainly with California-based Quiksilver, has been pursuing an aggressive expansion and now has 50 stores in the U.S. and 30 in Europe out of a total 144.

"Demand for the group's products grew strongly in all major territories, most notably Europe where there was also good EBITDA margin growth," said Billabong Chief Executive Derek O'Neill.

European sales grew by 32% in constant currency terms, while sales were up 22% in the U.S. and 21% in Australasia.

The company said it was well positioned to take advantage of acquisition opportunities as they arise.

Billabong said the strong Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar had been a drag on earnings.

Its share price has also been hurt by the Aussie dollar's strength. Billabong's shares have dropped 8.5% this year, against an 8.3% rise in the broader market .