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NEW YORK — Swim trunks look good on Perry Ellis International Inc.

This story first appeared in the March 12, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Miami-based firm, with help from the recently added Jantzen swimwear business acquired from VF Corp., dramatically improved its fourth-quarter financial metrics.

Net income for the period ended Jan. 31 shot up 191.8 percent to $2.8 million, or 41 cents a diluted share. This compared with year-ago earnings of $954,000, or 15 cents a share. An accounting change dragged down year-ago profits by $648,000, or 10 cents a share.

Sales for the three months raced ahead 45.4 percent to $86.6 million from $59.5 million a year ago.

Chairman and chief executive George Feldenkreis, in a statement, described the year as a “landmark” for the company. “It is hallmarked by the continued strengthening of the Perry Ellis brand; our integration and execution of the Jantzen business, and the agreement to acquire Salant Corp. to solidify our operating platform.

“Not only have we grown due primarily to the Jantzen acquisition during the past year, but we have significantly improved our balance sheet. We remained focused on building our company and are convinced that the industry will come to be increasingly consolidated.”

PEI bought Jantzen from VF Corp. in March 2002, and this spring launched Jantzen beach sandals through a licensee, as well as a Jantzen towel program to be sold exclusively at May Department Stores Co. The firm also plans to develop the name into a resort, casual-lifestyle apparel brand, which would complement the swimwear line and hit stores in 2005.

Last month, as reported, PEI agreed to buy Salant, the largest licensee of PEI branded apparel, for $91 million in cash and stock. Once consummated, the acquisition will give PEI greater control of the Perry Ellis brand, as well as ownership of Axis and Tricots St. Raphael. The deal is expected to close by mid-June.

For the year, earnings advanced 63.4 percent to $10.8 million, or $1.65 cents a diluted share, from $6.6 million, or $1.01, in 2001. Sales rose 10 percent to $305.8 million from $278 million the preceding year.

This year, PEI is looking for earnings of about $2.60 a share.