(By Balaseshan) Chico's FAS Inc. (NYSE: CHS) reported a 26 percent jump in quarterly earnings, helped by a double-digit growth in sales and expansion of margins. Revenue missed consensus, while adjusted earnings matched market expectations.
In a separate release, the company said its board of directors has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.055 per common share, a 4.8 percent increase over the dividend rate from March 2012. The dividend is payable on April 1 to shareholders of record on March 18.
Chico's FAS also said its board has authorized the repurchase of up to $300 million of its 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.
The women's specialty retailer earned $30.94 million or $0.19 per share for the fourth quarter, up from $24.74 million or $0.15 per share in the comparable period of last year. Adjusted earnings per share (EPS) jumped 33.3 percent to $0.20.
Sales increased 14.5 percent to $651.9 million, primarily reflecting comparable sales growth of 3.7 percent and 101 net new stores for a square footage increase of 8.1 percent.
Comparable sales growth primarily reflected a positive customer response to the fashion assortments and the effectiveness of its innovative marketing plans, the company said.
Wall Street analysts, on average, expected earnings of $0.20 per share on sales of $665.57 million.
Gross margin improved 90 basis points to 53.2 percent, primarily reflecting a higher level of full-price selling and effective inventory management, partially offset by incentive compensation.
The stock, which has been trading in the 52-week range of $13.52 to $19.76, closed at $16.41 on Wednesday.