NEW YORK — Strong sales counteracted several extraordinary charges affecting Alberto-Culver’s fourth-quarter and year-end results.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, the Menlo Park, Ill.-based personal care products manufacturer saw earnings rise 4.9 percent to $48 million, or 52 cents, short of the 58 cents Wall Street analysts expected. Comparatively, the company reported earnings of $45.7 million, or 51 cents, in the same period a year ago. Currency exchange translations had a negative 2.1 percent impact on fourth-quarter results.

Further hampering results was a $12.6 million pretax charge related to the buyback of $200 million of its 8.25 percent senior notes. Sales for the period jumped 13.2 percent to $850.7 million from $751.6 million.

Sales in the company’s consumer products segment were led by the Alberto VO5, St. Ives and TRESemmé product lines, said Howard Bernick, president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Charges had a greater effect on year-end results, sinking earnings 12.6 percent to $141.8 million, or $1.54, compared with earnings of $162.2 million, or $1.80, in 2003. Sales rose 12.7 percent to $3.26 billion from $2.89 billion.

The company said several events throughout the year affected results, including the early debt redemption during the fourth quarter, a charge related to the company’s move to one class of common stock and a gain realized on the sale of its Indola European business.

“Selling our Indola business, which had been losing some money for us over the years and was noncore to our level of expertise, I think was an excellent idea,” said Bernick during the company conference call. “And, of course, being in a position to pay off that debt early to give us additional funding to invest in our business in 2005, through savings and reduced interest expense, is also very positive.”

According to Bernick, the company increased funding for advertising and marketing by 20 percent to $254 million, compared with $212 million in 2003.

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