By  on May 1, 2007

NEW YORK — Second-quarter profits at Alberto-Culver Co. fell 60 percent from the same period last year, when Sally Beauty was still part of the firm and revenues were lifted by the January 2006 launch of the Nexxus hair care brand in the mass market.

Net earnings for the second quarter ended March 31 were $22.6 million, or 23 cents a diluted share, compared with $56.9 million, or 61 cents a diluted share, last year.

Earnings from discontinued operations — specifically, Sally Beauty and Beauty Systems Group, which Alberto-Culver spun off in November — were $797,000, from $42.1 million in the second quarter last year. Earnings from continuing operations, however, jumped 47.3 percent, to $21.8 million from $14.8 million in the year-ago period.

Second-quarter net sales rose 4.8 percent, to $383.4 million from $365.7 million in the prior year.

"We were extremely pleased with our performance in the second quarter," the firm's president and chief executive officer, James Marino, said during a conference call with analysts Monday, "and we think there's a great future ahead for this business."

He credited the TRESemmé hair care brand with driving second-quarter performance and added that Nexxus had a strong quarter.

"The sky is the limit on TRESemmé," said Marino. "It's a great brand [and] it's had a huge impact — and has been driving our business.

"With Nexxus, this was our best quarter since the [mass market] launch," Marino added. He acknowledged that "our margin [experienced] a decline versus the [Nexxus] launch quarter of last year," but "we exceeded our expectations for Nexxus in the second quarter [of fiscal 2007]."

Sales of Nexxus reached $100 million last year, Marino noted, adding, "We're hoping we can exceed last year's volume."

Net earnings for the six months ended March 31 were $16.7 million, compared with $109 million a year ago, and sales for the same period were $734.5 million, up 8.4 percent from $677.6 million a year ago.

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