Bebe Stores Profit Soars

The specialty retailer easily beats analysts' earnings expectations.
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Specialty retailer

bebe Stores

(BEBE)

said Thursday that fourth-quarter profit surged from year-ago levels, easily surpassing the Wall Street consensus. But the company forecast first-quarter earnings that could come in below consensus estimates.

Shares of the company were lately falling 12 cents, or 0.6%, at $18.50.

Net earnings were $8.4 million, or 21 cents a share, in the quarter ended June 30, compared with $3.3 million, or 8 cents a share, in the similar period a year ago. Total sales increased 16.2% to $93.1 million, while same-store sales increased 9%.

Analysts had been expecting 18 cents a share on sales of $93 million.

Gross margin expanded 47% as a percent of sales, compared with 41.7% in the year-earlier period. The company cited in part, improved merchandise margins. Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased to 32.4% as a percent of sales vs. 36% in the year-ago period.

Looking to the first quarter, bebe sees earnings of 16 cents to 19 cents a share with same-store sales up in the mid-to-high single digits. Analysts' consensus is for 19 cents a share. The company earned 15 cents a share in the year-earlier period.

In addition, Brisbane, Calif.-based bebe said it expects to open 11 new bebe stores, eight new bebe sport stores and one new outlet store in full-year 2005. Capital expenditures are seen at $20 million.