By and  on August 17, 2005

NEW YORK — William Lauder wrapped up his first year as chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. on a high note.

Product launches, along with robust sales in all of its product segments, drove top-line growth in the beauty giant's fourth quarter and fiscal year-end period.

But the new ceo isn't stopping there. Lauder on Tuesday outlined a strategic plan for the group designed to bolster earnings and sales. The plan includes: optimizing the Estée Lauder Cos.'s brand portfolio; strengthening its product categories; bolstering and expanding its geographic presence; diversifying its distribution lines, and achieving operational and cost excellence.

"We have to fight a multifront war simultaneously," Lauder told WWD. "We can't just go at this serially. We've got lots of incredibly talented people and we have to focus everybody on the key initiatives that are important for them. The challenge for me is to keep everyone focused."

The plan is aimed at building on the momentum the Estée Lauder Cos. has seen in the last year. Excluding a special tax charge, for the fourth quarter ended June 30, net income rose 32.3 percent to $94.1 million, or 42 cents a diluted share, from $71.1 million, or 31 cents, in the same period last year on sales that gained 10 percent to $1.54 billion from $1.4 billion. For the year, net income rose 26.7 percent to $433.6 million, or $1.90, from $342.1 million, or $1.48, in the prior year on sales that increased 9.4 percent to $6.34 billion from $5.79 billion.

Excluding the charge, the Estée Lauder Cos.'s 42 cent EPS was a penny ahead of analysts' consensus estimate. Shares of the company closed the day up 9.1 percent to $40.80.

The special tax charge the company took during the fourth quarter totals $27.5 million, or 12 cents a share. The charge relates to its intention to repatriate $500 million worth of intercompany dividends in fiscal year 2006 under The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. Including the charge, fourth-quarter net income decreased 6.3 percent to $66.6 million, or 30 cents. Including the charge for the year, net income showed a gain of 18.7 percent to $406.1 million, or $1.78.

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