MILAN — Italian fashion group Aeffe SpA on Thursday said fourth-quarter profits fell 17.3 percent, but eased concerns its business would slow further by reporting a 10 percent rise in sales of the spring-summer collections.Aeffe, which operates the Alberta Ferretti, Moschino and Pollini brands and produces collections for Jean Paul Gaultier, said profits after financial items for the three months through Dec. 31 reached 762,000 euros, or $1.1 million, from 921,000 euros, or $1.3 million, a year ago.Sales in the quarter grew 8 percent to 59.2 million euros, or $85.7 million, thanks largely to gains in Europe and Russia and the performance of the Alberta Ferretti and Moschino brands. Revenues in the United States fell 14.8 percent to 6.9 million euros, or $10 million.Currency conversions were made at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.Despite the fourth-quarter slump, Aeffe's full-year profits climbed 62.2 percent to 12.9 million euros, or $17.7 million. Sales grew 10.2 percent to 293.2 million euros, or $401.9 million, in line with company forecasts. The figure excludes revenues from a stake in the Narciso Rodriguez brand, which Aeffe sold to Liz Claiborne Inc. in May.Earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation were up 19.8 percent to 44.5 million euros, or $60.9 million.Aeffe chairman Massimo Ferretti said he was "particularly satisfied" with the results, which met "all our objectives at the beginning of the year, despite the growing macroeconomic uncertainties."He added that 2008 had begun well following the performance of the spring-summer sales campaign and was "confident of achieving good revenue growth" and an improved profit margin come yearend.Aeffe's ability to weather a slowdown in consumer spending has put the company's stock under pressure since listing on the Milan Stock Exchange STAR segment for small companies in July.Aeffe shares closed up Thursday 4.8 percent to 1.93 euros, or $2.81, little more than half their price at its initial public offering.
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