San Antonio-based Harte-Hanks ( HHS), a provider of direct marketing services, said fourth-quarter earnings rose 14% from a year ago, aided by strong growth in shopper business.

The direct marketing company earned $31.4 million, or 38 cents a share, compared with $27.6 million, or 32 cents a share, in the corresponding quarter last year. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 35 cents a share in the recent quarter.

Revenue for the quarter was $301 million, up 8.5% from last year. Analysts were expecting revenue of $296.8 million.

For the year 2006, the company expects EPS growth in "high single digit or better" range, excluding option expenses. It expects stock compensation expenses to impact the 2006 earnings by 6 to 7 cents a share. Analysts expect earnings of $1.48 a share.

"Direct marketing showed strong operating leverage performance in the fourth quarter, with operating income up 8.7% over the prior year on 4.4% revenue growth," said Chief Executive Officer Richard Hochhauser.

Operating profit margin was 17% in the quarter, same as in the previous year. Net profit margin was 10.4% as compared with 9.9% in the previous year.
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