Aeropostale Beats Expectations

After posting strong fourth-quarter results, the teen clothing retailer guides higher for 2004.
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After flying past analysts' fourth-quarter estimates,



projects it will top their 2004 forecasts as well.

Separately, the teen clothing retailer announced a 3-for-2 stock split after the close Thursday, applicable to shareholders of record on April 12, and also that its board of directors approved a $35 million increase in its existing stock-buyback program.

Aeropostale earned $27.52 million, or 71 cents a share, in the holiday quarter. On a per-share basis, Aeropostale's bottom line climbed 54% above the profits of $17.68 million, or 46 cents a share, the company posted in the same period a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the company's sales zoomed up 32.1% year over year to $272.64 million in the quarter.

Wall Street was looking for earnings of 69 cents a share in the quarter on sales of $269.84 million, according to Thomson First Call. The company raised its guidance twice in the quarter, most recently last month when it forecast an earnings range of 67 cents to 69 cents a share.

Aeropostale expects to earn 9 cents a share in the first quarter and forecast an earnings range of $1.72 to $1.73 a share for the full year. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had predicted the company would earn $1.71 a share on $891.40 million in sales this year.

Prior to Aerpostale's earnings report, the company's shares closed regular trading up 20 cents, or 0.6%, to $33.30.