posted fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday that beat analysts' estimates by a penny and announced plans to repurchase up to $100 million of its shares.

The retailer and catolog seller of women and children's clothing earned $33 million, or 51 cents a share, up from $15.3 million, or 24 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Fifteen analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected Talbots to earn 50 cents a share.

Net sales were $473.1 million, up from $380.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

Talbots, which is based in Hingham, Mass., also announced plans for an extension of its buyback program. In December 2000, the company bought $20 million in common stock and now wants to buy up to $100 million more. Since Talbots began the program in 1995, it has repurchased more than 11 million shares of its own stock for $173 million.

Shares of Talbots closed Tuesday at $44.60. They have a 52-week range of $19.09 to $54.99.