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Apparel giant


(GPS) - Get Gap, Inc. Report

beat Wall Street's earnings expectations by 2 cents Thursday as strong sales drove profits up 32%.

Gap's performance was buoyed by the opening of more than 500 Gap,



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stores around the world last year. The company saw fourth-quarter sales rise 27% to $3.859 billion, compared with $3.03 billion a year ago.

For the fourth quarter, the San Francisco-based retailer posted net income of 47 cents a diluted share, or $413.9 million, compared with 35 cents a share, or $313.9 million, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

had projected earnings of 45 cents for the latest quarter.

Gap said it plans to open another 600 stores this year; it currently counts 2,900 stores worldwide. The company also said it would begin breaking out monthly sales for its

Gap International

unit; until now the company did not provide sales figures for its international and outlet businesses.

Gap shares were down in early trading Thursday, falling 1 1/16, or 3%, to 41 7/8. Gap finished down 7/16, or 1%, at 42 1/2.