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Avon Sees 1st-Quarter Continuing Net at or Better Than February Forecast

NEW YORK -- James E. Preston, chairman and chief executive officer of Avon Products, said he expects earnings and sales from continuing operations in the first quarter to meet or exceed gains forecast in February, largely due to better than expected...

NEW YORK — James E. Preston, chairman and chief executive officer of Avon Products, said he expects earnings and sales from continuing operations in the first quarter to meet or exceed gains forecast in February, largely due to better than expected business in the U.S.

In February, the company said earnings from continuing operations would grow 13 to 15 percent, while sales would rise 5 to 7 percent.

Speaking to analysts at the company’s midtown headquarters here Thursday, Preston said the second quarter is “starting off at least as strong if not stronger than the first quarter.”

“We are seeing signs of an excellent second quarter, and we believe our growth targets are achievable for the full year,” he said.

For the first quarter, Preston said Avon’s U.S. sales will increase 7 percent or more and pretax income will be up by at least 35 percent, reaching record levels.

Last year, Avon U.S., which accounts for a third of sales, recorded a 22 percent decline in pretax profits before special charges, to $152.8 million, while sales dipped 1 percent, to $1.4 billion.

Internationally, the company continues to see strong growth in Latin America and is stepping up its expansion efforts in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and China, according to Edward J. Robinson, president and chief operating officer. Last year, international pretax profits before restructuring charges increased 8 percent, to $340.8 million, while sales advanced 9 percent, to $2.45 billion. The Americas — which includes Latin America, Canada and Puerto Rico — scored a profit increase of 21.7 percent, to $194.4 million, led by Mexico and Argentina. The zone was the largest profit contributor for Avon last year.