PONZANO VENETO, Italy -- The Benetton Group reported consolidated net profit in 1993 rose 12.6 percent to $127.7 million (208 billion lire) at current exchange rates.

Consolidated sales rose 9.5 percent to $1.69 billion (2.75 trillion lire).

Breaking down the year's sales gains by areas, Benetton reported that in the U.S. and the Caribbean countries, sales increased 19 percent; in the Far East, they were up 83 percent, and in the Mideast, they rose 51 percent.

Gross margin last year rose to 42.2 percent from 39.2 percent, thanks to lower operating costs through more efficient and more integrated production.

The company also said an increased dividend for the year will be considered by directors on May 25, hiking the payout to about 24 cents (385 lire) per share, against 350 lire a year ago.

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