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Chico's FAS Q4 Profit Up; Hikes Dividend, To Repurchase Up To $300 Mln Of Stock

Chico's FAS Inc. (CHS) reported fourth-quarter net income of $31.5 million, an increase of 25.6% compared to net income of $25.1 million in last year's fourth quarter, and earnings per share of $0.19, an increase of 26.7% compared to $0.15 per share in last year's fourth quarter.

Excluding non-recurring acquisition and integration costs related to the Boston Proper acquisition, the Company reported net income of $32.7 million, an increase of 29.8% compared to net income of $25.2 million in last year's thirteen-week fourth quarter, and earnings per share of $0.20, an increase of 33.3% compared to $0.15 per share in last year's fourth quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to report earnings of $0.20 per share for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

Net sales for the quarter were $651.9 million, an increase of 14.5% compared to $569.2 million in last year's fourth quarter, primarily reflecting comparable sales growth of 3.7% and 101 net new stores for a square footage increase of 8.1%. Twelve analysts had consensus revenue estimate of $665.57 million for the quarter.

The 3.7% increase in comparable sales for the fourth quarter followed an 8.7% increase in last year's fourth quarter, for a two-year stack of 12.4%, and reflected increases in both average dollar sale and transaction count.

The comparable sales growth primarily reflected a positive customer response to the fashion assortments and the effectiveness of the Company's innovative marketing plans. The fifty-third week is excluded from comparable sales calculations.

The company believes that by delivering on its long-term objectives to increase sales by a low double-digit percentage and diluted earnings per share by a mid-teen percentage over a meaningful period of time, the Company will provide its shareholders with substantial value.

The company announced several strategic investments in 2013 to fuel future growth, including omni-channel capabilities, expansion into Canada, and opening its first Boston Proper stores.

The company also announced that its Board declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.055 per share of its common stock, a 4.8% increase over the dividend rate from March 2012. The dividend is payable on April 1, 2013 to Chico's FAS shareholders of record at the close of business on March 18, 2013.

In addition, the company said that its Board authorized the repurchase of up to $300 million of the Company's outstanding common stock, effective March 1, 2013. The program replaces the now cancelled November 2011$200 million program in its entirety, which had $67.6 million remaining.

by RTT Staff Writer

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