Chico's EPS Jump 70%

Specialty retailer Chico's FAS ( CHS) said Wednesday that fourth-quarter earnings jumped 70%, beating analysts' consensus by a penny, on a big jump in total sales.

The company earned $26 million, or 29 cents a share, compared with a profit of $15 million, or 17 cents a share, last year. Analysts had been calling for 28 cents a share. Total sales increased 55.8% to $216 million, the company said, while same-store sales rose 20.5%.

For the full year 2003, the Ft. Myers, Fla.-based company earned $100 million, or $1.14 a share, compared with $67 million, or 78 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts had been calling for $1.13 a share. Total sales in the year rose 45% to $768 million.

Separately, the company said on a prerecorded call that sales for the four weeks ended Feb. 28 increased 62% to $67.2 million, while same-store sales in the period jumped 28%.

The company expects same-store sales in March to be in the high single digits to low double digits. Those numbers will be released on April 8.

Shares of the company closed up 22 cents, or 0.5%, at $44.20 in regular Wednesday trading, and were recently rising 79 cents, or 1.8%, to $44.99 in after-market trading, surpassing their previous 52-week high of $44.31 reached Tuesday.

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