Polo Ralph Lauren ( RL) posted higher fourth-quarter earnings, said it would begin paying a quarterly dividend and said earnings in the current fiscal year should be generally in line with estimates.

The clothes seller said fourth quarter GAAP earnings were $73.2 million, or 74 cents a share, compared with $48.0 million, or 48 cents a share, for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002. On an adjusted basis excluding various one-time items, earnings were $76.1 million, or 77 cents a share, for the fourth quarter, compared with $57.0 million, or 58 cents a share, a year earlier.

The 77 cents matched analysts' estimates. Net sales for the quarter were $617.6 million, up from $572.8 million a year ago. The company cited growth in its own line of specialty retail brands.

Looking ahead, the company expects to earn 2 cents to 6 cents a share on an adjusted basis in the first quarter. The First Call consensus is for earnings of 6 cents. It expects to earn 57 cents to 63 cents in the second quarter, for which the consensus is for 57 cents; and $1.95 to $2.05 for the full year, for which the consensus is $1.99 a share.

Polo also initiated a quarterly dividend of 5 cents.

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