Tiffany sales outshine Wall Street estimates

From the Associated Press

Tiffany & Co. reported Friday that strong growth in the Asia-Pacific and European markets helped first-quarter profit rise 19% and said that it didn't expect an improvement in the U.S. until later this year.

The New York-based jewelry retailer also raised its profit outlook for the year, based on a promising start, and said that it would open a smaller-store format in the U.S. as part of its worldwide expansion plans.

Tiffany said profit totaled $64.4 million, or 50 cents a share, in the three-month period that ended April 30. That's compared with $54.08 million, or 39 cents, a year earlier. Sales rose 12% to $668.15 million.

The results beat the estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Financial who had expected earnings of 40 cents a share on sales of $649 million.

Tiffany shares rose 2.7%, or $1.29, to $49.03.

"We are pleased to start the year with sales and earnings growth above our expectations," Chief Executive Michael J. Kowalski said in a statement. The strong gain in worldwide sales, despite only modest growth in the U.S., reflects "the benefit of globally diversified distribution," he added.

Tiffany said it remained on track to meet full-year sales growth goals. It expects worldwide net sales to rise 10% in 2008. The retailer boosted net earnings per share projections to a range of $2.80 to $2.90. That's up from March guidance of $2.75 to $2.85.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expect $2.73 a share for the year.

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