Liz Claiborne Profits Slip

Clothing designer Liz Claiborne ( LIZ) said its fourth-quarter earnings edged down from a year ago, but profits still topped Wall Street's estimates.

Net sales for the quarter ticked up 0.2% from last year to $1.20 billion, meeting the consensus forecast. The effect of foreign currency exchange rates, primarily the weakening of the euro, reduced sales by $21 million.

Liz Claiborne earned $78 million, or 74 cents a share, in the fourth quarter. The company had a profit of $83 million and 75 cents a share in the same period of 2004. The most recent quarter includes a 4-cent reduction associated with costs for expensing stock options and a change in the makeup of its management compensation plan.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 72 cents.

For the first quarter, Liz Claiborne projected a year-over-year sales decline in the low single digits and a profit of 42 cents to 46 cents a share. A number of items will have the combined effect of lowering earnings by 18 cents, implying an adjusted profit of 60 cents to 64 cents a share. Analysts are calling for 64 cents on the bottom line.

Liz Claiborne said fiscal 2006 sales will likely rise in the low single digits compared with 2005, while earnings should be $2.58 to $2.73 a share, including a hit of 36 cents a share from various items. That forecast suggests a profit before the items of $2.94 to $3.09. The consensus estimate is $3.

Shares of Liz Claiborne were rising 41 cents, or 1.1%, to $36.44.

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