Zale Earnings More Than Double in Quarter

The largest U.S. jewelry retailer, Zale Corp. (ZLC), Tuesday said income in the latest quarter more than doubled from last year.

The Dallas-based company, which has 2,235 stores under such brands as Zales Jewelers, Gordon's Jewelers (search), Bailey Banks & Biddle Fine Jewelers (search) and Piercing Pagoda, also said it expects revenue to improve in the new fiscal year.

In the fourth quarter ended July 31, Zale earned $6.89 million, or 13 cents a share, on revenue of $455.6 million. In the same period last year, it earned $2.93 million, or 5 cents a share, on revenue of $442.4 million.

Last year's quarter includes a $3.7 million charge from the redemption of its senior notes.

Earnings in the latest quarter matched analysts' expectations as polled by Thomson First Call.

Bridal sales helped performance in its high-end business during the fourth quarter, while Zale's moderate business is being affected by the slower growth of the economy, the company said.

A turnaround at Piercing Pagoda (search), which has closed stores, also helped results.

In the twelve months ended July 31, the company earned $106.5 million, or $2.02 a share, on revenue of $2.3 billion.

In the previous fiscal year, it posted a loss of $40.6 million, or 63 cents a share, on revenue of $2.21 billion.

For fiscal 2005, Zale expects earnings per share to grow 12 percent to 14 percent to between $2.23 and $2.27.

Zale expects revenue to grow 5 percent to 7 percent to between $2.42 billion and $2.47 billion.

Analysts have been expecting 2005 earnings of $2.30 a share on revenue of $2.44 billion, according to First Call.

Sales at stores open more than one year are expected to rise between 2 percent and 3 percent. Zale also expects to open 85 stores and 50 kiosks in fiscal 2005.

The company this month began adding a new retail format through its Peoples Jewellers brand in Canada. It uses carts in malls to sell Italian charms, body jewelry and earrings.

Zale plans to open about 70 carts before the December holidays and expects the program to generate at least $10 million in revenue for fiscal 2005.

New York Stock Exchange-listed Zale shares traded midday Tuesday at $25.94, down $1.01, or 3.7 percent.