By  on August 6, 2007

MILAN — Benetton said Friday that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 14.8 percent to 151 million euros, or $196.3 million, on a 10.2 percent increase in sales to 990 million euros, or $1.28 billion, in the first half ended June 30.

This compares with EBITDA of 132 million euros, or $171.6 million, on revenues of 898 million euros, or $1.16 billion, in the same period last year. Earnings before interest and taxes grew 20.4 percent in the first six months to 107 million euros, or $139.1 million, compared with 89 million euros, or $115.7 million, last year. Currency conversions were made at average exchange rates for the respective periods.

In a statement, the company attributed the growth to the performance of the United Colors of Benetton brands for adults and children, to "accelerated" sales of the more fashion-forward Sisley collection, and a 30 percent increase in sales of the Playlife casual and sportswear label. The company noted it sold 74 million outfits in the first half, a 13 percent increase in volume compared with the same period last year. In addition, Benetton noted growth in all markets, with a 35 percent rise in sales in Eastern European countries and Russia. The company opened its 100th store in Russia in the first half.

The Italian clothing manufacturer earlier this year overhauled the Playlife label, which had been predominantly activewear, by focusing on preppy, casual clothing rather than performance-driven pieces and has also been fine-tuning its innerwear brand, Undercolors, with a feminine and sophisticated style. Both projects were well received by the market, according to the company, with sales at Playlife and Undercolors growing 30 and 16 percent, respectively. Benetton had planned to open 30 Playlife stores in 2007, but said it will close the year with 50 new stores. Furthermore, the company is launching an Undercolors concept store around the world, along the model of the first two test stores in Rome and Barcelona. Benetton cited India as a new market for these brands. The company plans to open Undercolors and Playlife stores in India in the next few months.

The company said it plans to launch a Sisley Limited Edition collection, due to bow with the fall 2007 season. This will be a more sophisticated collection for men and women and will initially be available in 350 stores.Benetton operates 5,540 stores, 348 more units compared with the same period in 2006.

The group said it expects EBITDA to grow "at least" 20 percent for the full year, with sales projected to increase by 7 to 9 percent as a result of the strong performance of the spring-summer 2007 collections and projected orders for the lines.

Total investments will reach 300 million euros, or $390 million, by yearend.

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