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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tiffany's Soft Q4 Doesn't Tarnish Sparkling Year


Tiffany & Co. said Tuesday that worldwide net sales for the fourth quarter increased 8 percent, year-over-year, to $1.2 billion. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, worldwide net sales rose 7 percent and comparable store sales rose 5 percent.

Net earnings declined 2 percent for the period, ended January 31, to $178 million, due to higher costs.

Meanwhile, worldwide net sales for fiscal 2011 rose 18 percent to $3.6 billion. On a constant-exchange-rate basis that excludes the effect of translating foreign-currency-denominated sales into U.S. dollars, worldwide net sales and comparable store sales rose 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Net earnings increased 19 percent to $439 million. Net earnings increased 24 percent excluding nonrecurring items, including the recent move of Tiffany’s headquarters staff in New York. Net earnings as a percentage of net sales rose to 12.1 percent, from 11.9 percent in the prior year.

“Tiffany exceeded the goals that we had set at the start of 2011 for both sales and earnings growth, although we concluded the year with softer-than-expected results,” said Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany chairman and chief executive officer.

In its outlook for 2012, Tiffany said it expects worldwide net sales to increase by approximately 10 percent, primarily driven by sales growth in Asia-Pacific and the Americas. The New York-based company plans to open 24 stores in 2012—nine in the Americas, seven in Asia-Pacific, three in Europewhile beginning the operation of five stores in the United Arab Emirates.

The luxury retail jeweler reported annual double-digit growth in all regions. Unsurprisingly, the Asia-Pacific region reported the strongest growth.

Sales by region are as follows:

* In the Americas, sales increased 15 percent to $1.8 billion in fiscal 2011 and rose 5 percent to $605 million in the fourth quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total Americas sales rose 14 percent in fiscal 2011 and 5 percent in the fourth quarter, largely due to comparable store sales increasing 13 percent in the year and 3 percent in the fourth quarter. On that basis, comparable branch store sales in the Americas increased 11 percent in the year and 3 percent in the fourth quarter, while sales in the New York flagship store increased 20 percent for the year and 2 percent in the fourth quarter. Combined Internet and catalog sales in the Americas rose 6 percent in fiscal 2011 and declined 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

* In Asia-Pacific, sales rose 36 percent to $748 million in the full year and increased 19 percent to $225 million in the fourth quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales and comparable store sales rose 31 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in the year, and rose 18 percent and 13 percent in the fourth quarter, due to increased sales in most countries.

* In Japan, sales increased 13 percent to $617 million in fiscal 2011 and rose 12 percent to $204 million in the fourth quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales in Japan rose 3 percent in the year and 5 percent in the fourth quarter and comparable store sales increased 4 percent in both periods.

* In Europe, sales increased 17 percent to $421 million in the fiscal year and 3 percent to $142 million in the fourth quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales in Europe rose 12 percent in the year and 3 percent in the fourth quarter while comparable store sales increased 6 percent in the year and declined 2 percent in the fourth quarter. Throughout the fourth quarter and year, sales growth in Continental Europe was relatively stronger than results in the U.K., the company said.

Tiffany currently operates about 247 stores (102 in the Americas, 58 in Asia-Pacific, 55 in Japan and 32 in Europe.

Other sales declined 5 percent to $51 million in the fiscal year and fell 22 percent to $12 million in the fourth quarter due to declines in wholesale sales of rough diamonds in both periods as well as lower wholesale sales of finished products to independent distributors in the fourth quarter.

Other financial highlights:

* Gross margin (gross profit as a percentage of net sales) of 59.0% in the fiscal year compared with 59.1% a year ago, reflecting both higher product costs and shifts in product sales mix toward higher-priced jewelry that achieves a lower gross margin being largely offset by sales leverage on fixed costs. Gross margin in the fourth quarter was 60.4 percent, versus 60.9 percent in the prior year for generally similar reasons except for a lack of sales leverage on fixed costs.

* SG&A (selling, general and administrative) expenses increased 18 percent in the fiscal year and 10 percent in the fourth quarter, with both increases affected by nonrecurring costs related to the relocation of Tiffany's New York headquarters staff. Excluding the nonrecurring costs in all periods, SG&A expenses rose 16 percent in the fiscal year and 11 percent in the fourth quarter primarily due to increased store occupancy, labor and marketing costs.

* The company repurchased approximately 2.6 million shares of its Common Stock in the fiscal year at a total cost of $174 million, or an average cost of $66.23 per share. In the fourth quarter, the Company spent $35 million to repurchase approximately 525,000 shares at an average cost of $67.26 per share. At January 31, 2012 approximately $218 million was available for future repurchases under the currently authorized plan which expires in January 2013.

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