Discount retailer Fred's ( FRED) reported a 21% increase in fourth-quarter net income, but results missed analysts' estimates by a penny.

Nevertheless, the company issued a full-year guidance in line with the Wall Street consensus and the shares were recently up 27 cents, or 1.1%, to $24.83.

In the quarter ended Jan. 31, the company earned $13.2 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with $10.9 million, or 28 cents a share, in the prior year. Analysts had been calling for 34 cents a share. Total sales in the quarter increased 16% to $378 million, from $325.3 million a year ago. Same-store sales increased 5.1% for the quarter.

"Despite the challenges presented by a sluggish economy and those inherent in our efforts to oversee rapid store growth and the ramp-up of our new distribution center, Fred's fundamentals continued to improve, producing another year of record sales and earnings," the company said in a statement.

The company it still expects to increase sales by 15% to 17% fiscal 2004, based on its store expansion plans of 85 to 100 new stores in the year. It also expects same-store sales to rise 4% to 7%.

Based on those assumptions, the company sees full-year 2004 earnings of $1.03 to $1.10 a share. Analysts are expecting $1.08 a share.

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