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Business briefs for March 19, 2004

Profit jumps 41 percent

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- FedEx Corp. reported a 41 percent increase in third-quarter profit, due mostly to growth in international priority shipments and savings from job cuts.

The shipping giant reported earnings Wednesday of $207 million, or 68 cents per share, up from $147 million, or 49 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Those results included costs from an early retirement and severance program that cut the payroll of FedEx Express, the company's cargo airline, by 3,600 employees.

Revenue was $6.06 billion, up from $5.55 billion for the same period a year ago.

Profit improves on database sales

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle Corp, which is pressing its hostile bid to acquire rival PeopleSoft, reported solid gains in third-quarter profit and revenue, driven by strong sales of the company's database products. Company executives predicted technology spending would continue to improve throughout the year.

While Oracle's database business grew 16 percent, revenue was flat in the closely watched applications business, where Oracle competes with PeopleSoft and the German software maker SAP. In the database business, which accounts for the vast majority of Oracle's sales, price competition remains fierce, particularly with Microsoft Corp., company executives said.

For the quarter ended Feb. 29, the company, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., said net income rose 11 percent, to $635 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with $571 million, or 11 cents a share, in the period a year earlier. Revenue increased 9 percent, to $2.5 billion from $2.3 billion. The results were in line with analysts' forecasts.

LeBron James shoes assist in profit jump

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Nike Inc., the world's No. 1 athletic-footwear maker, Thursday said third-quarter profit rose 61 percent as demand for higher-priced basketball and running shoes led to the biggest sales gain in more than six years.

Net income rose to $200.3 million, or 74 cents a share, from $124.7 million, or 47 cents, a year earlier. Sales in the quarter ended Feb. 29 climbed 21 percent to $2.9 billion, aided by a decline in the dollar against euro.

Demand for the $110 LeBron James signature Air Zoom Generation sneaker helped Chief Executive Phil Knight, 66, boost shoe sales in the United States, Nike's biggest market, for the second- straight quarter. Sales of running shoes were led by the new $100 Nike Shox Turbo as the company offered fewer discounts.

Profit slides

PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Sports equipment and clothing retailer Galyan's Trading Co. said Thursday its profit slid 40 percent in the latest quarter, as higher expenses and inventory markdowns offset a 17 percent rise in sales.

The company reported net income of $9.99 million, or 57 cents a share, for the fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 31. That's down sharply from the prior year's $16.7 million, or 98 cents a share.

Sales climbed to $249.8 million from $212.2 million. But on a same-store basis, which refers to stores open at least a year, sales fell 4.5 percent because of weakness in outdoor equipment, clothing and accessories.

Bookseller's net increases 17%

NEW YORK -- Barnes & Noble Inc., the nation's largest bookseller, posted a 17 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings, meeting Wall Street forecasts.

The company said Thursday it earned $130.04 million, or $1.65 per share, for the three months ended Jan. 31, compared with $111.01 million, or $1.49 per share, in the year-ago period.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected $1.65 per share.

Sales rose 20 percent to $2.21 billion.

Sales at store opened at least a year, known as same-store sales, at its Barnes & Noble bookstores were up 6.4 percent. Same-store sales are considered the best indicator of a retailer's health.

Doughnut maker's profit improves

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Krispy Kreme Inc. reported a surge in fourth-quarter profit, helped by strong sales at company-owned stores.

For the three months ending Feb. 1, the doughnut maker earned $16.4 million, or 26 cents a share -- in line with the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call. A year ago, the company earned $5.6 million, or 9 cents a share, including a $5.7 million charge related to an arbitration award against the company. Excluding the charge, the company earned $11.3 million, or about 19 cents a share.

Sales increased 36 percent to $185.5 million from $136.7 million at the same time a year ago.

Sales, profit fall

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Dillard's Inc., a 66-year-old department-store chain, said fourth-quarter net income dropped 29 percent as sales fell and the retailer had expenses to close stores.

Net income declined to $51.2 million, or 61 cents a share, from $72.3 million, or 85 cents, a year earlier. Sales in the period ended Jan. 31 fell 3.7 percent to $2.3 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year declined 4 percent.

Costs to close stores lowered profit by 13 cents in the quarter, Dillard's said. The company shuttered nine stores last year as part of Chief Executive William Dillard's strategy to close underperforming locations. Same-store sales have risen in only three of the past 12 months.

Auto chain posts loss

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pep Boys -- Manny, Moe & Jack posted a narrower loss for its latest quarter and beat Wall Street estimates, although charges offset an almost 15 percent jump in sales.

The auto-parts and service chain said its net loss for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31 was $1.25 million, or 2 cents a share, compared with a loss of $1.8 million, or 4 cents a share, a year ago.

The latest results included $10.2 million in charges for an asset write-down, a change in benefit accounting and discontinued operations.

Adjusted earnings from continuing operations, which exclude charges, rose to $6.3 million, or 12 cents a share.

Wall Street analysts expected the company to earn 4 cents a share before items, according to a Thomson First Call survey.

Sales rose 14 percent to $529.6 million.

Pottery Barn owner profit improves

SAN FRANCISCO -- Williams-Sonoma Inc., owner of the Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma retail chains, Thursday said its fourth-quarter profit jumped 28 percent because it added stores and kept shelves better stocked during the holidays. Earnings will increase this quarter and year, the retailer said.

Net income in the period ended Feb. 1 rose to $102.1 million, or 85 cents a share, from $79.8 million, or 67 cents, a year earlier, the San Francisco-based company said in a statement. Sales increased 17 percent to reach $1 billion for the first time.

Chief Executive Edward Mueller added 34 stores, most of them Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids, increased signups for bridal registries and offered more merchandise ranging from KitchenAid mixers to napkin rings.

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