Reebok International Ltd., the world's No. 2 athletic shoe and apparel maker, Wednesday reported an 18 percent drop in fourth-quarter net income and warned profit growth this year may be "somewhat lower" than its long-term goal of 15 percent.

Reebok said it earned $5.1 million, or 9 cents a diluted share, in the fourth quarter, compared with $6.2 million, or 11 cents a diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Reebok met the high-end of Wall Street estimates.

Analysts were looking for Reebok to earn 2 cents to 9 cents a share, with a consensus estimate of 5 cents, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

"Our goal over the next several years is to generate compounded annual growth in earnings in the range of 15 percent," Reebok Chairman Paul Fireman said in a statement. "However, given the current economic climate, we expect our earnings growth this year may be somewhat lower than our longer term goal."

Fireman added that most of Reebok's earnings improvement should occur in the second half of 2002.

Fourth-quarter net sales, as reported in U.S. dollars, rose to $664.6 million, from $622.5 million in the year-ago period. For the Reebok brand, worldwide sales in the quarter surged 12 percent to $550.1 million.

But Reebok saw weakness in footwear sales in the United States, which slipped to $183.6 million, down from $192 million in the year-ago quarter.

U.S. apparel sales, however, rose 89 percent to $113.1 million. Fireman said Reebok's licensing deals with the National Football League and the National Basketball Association have exceeded expectations.

"We are very optimistic about the long-term potential for this extension of our apparel business," Fireman said.

Reebok shares closed down 32 cents to $28.43 Tuesday on New York Stock Exchange trade. The stock is up 7 percent this year.