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Oakley Inc.: The Irvine-based sunglass maker posted...

Oakley Inc.: The Irvine-based sunglass maker posted higher earnings last year, although fourth-quarter net income slumped, as expected, because of disappointing holiday sales and canceled orders by its largest retailer, Sunglass Hut.

Oakley said net income for 1996 increased 16% to $46 million, or 64 cents a share, from $39.6 million, or 59 cents a share, for 1995. Sales rose 27% to $218.6 million from $172.8 million.

For the fourth quarter, however, net income tumbled 61% to $3.6 million, or 5 cents a share, compared to $9.2 million, or 13 cents a share, for the same 1995 period. Sales declined 9% to $39.3 million from $43 million.

The company also announced that it will begin a direct distribution operation in Japan on May 1. The company said it will not renew its contract with the distributor that has sold Oakley products to the snow ski, cycle, sunglass specialty and sporting goods retail channels in Japan for the last 10 years. The company said it will continue its relationship with its existing authorized distributor for the surf and snowboard markets in Japan.

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