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Lululemon Athletica Inc. (LULU) - Get Free Report shares opened at a record high Thursday after the sports apparel group posted solid fourth quarter earnings and said accelerating online sales would drive better-than-expected full year profits.

Lululemon said adjusted earnings for the three months ending on February 3, the company's fiscal fourth quarter, rose 39% from last year to $1.85 per share, well ahead of the Street forecast of $1.74. Group revenues, the company said, advanced 26% to $1.17 billion as same-store sales jumped 16% while online shipments surged 37% and gross margins improved by 100 basis points to 57.3%.

Looking into 2019, Lululemon said it sees full-year earnings in the range of $4.48 to $4.55 per share, nearly a $1 ahead of the high end of analysts' forecasts. 

"Our strategic investments in the business to support our digital expansion and supply chain improvements delivered impressively on both our top and bottom line," CEO Calvin McDonald told investors on a conference call late Wednesday. "All of this combined with our significant growth outside North America allowed us to achieve a high level of results for our employees and shareholders."

"When looking at our digital ecosystem, we are still in the early stages of our development with so much potential ahead," he added. "We've just begun speaking to our guests in a more personalized way, but we are ready to accelerate our capabilities in this area in the coming quarters."

Lululemon shares were marked 16.4% higher Thursday at $170.86 each, the highest on record a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date gain to around 39% and value the Vancouver, British Columbia-based retailer at around $23.5 billion.

"The fact that LULU has achieved three of its 2020 targets (EBIT margin, gross margin and e-commerce mix) two years ahead of plan speaks to the momentum in the business and strength of the leadership team," said Canaccord Genuity analyst Camilo Lyon, who has a 'buy' rating on the stock with a price target of $186 per share.

"Overall, while we look forward to learning more details around the key long-term initiatives at the upcoming analyst day in April (especially the loyalty program, men's, China), the exceptionally strong F19 guidance highlights the company's ability to comp the comp."

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