By  on February 19, 2010

Claire’s Stores Inc., the privately held accessories and jewelry retailer, reported higher fourth-quarter sales and forecast adjusted earnings for the period to climb 20 percent or more.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the three months ended Jan. 31 are anticipated to reach $91 million to $95 million, which would be 19.7 percent to 25 percent higher than the $76 million in the final quarter of 2008. In addition to interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization not included in EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA excludes items such as the effect of early debt extinguishment and costs related to Claire’s 2007 acquisition by an affiliate of Apollo Management LP.

EBITDA is estimated to hit$86 million to $90 million, up from $61 million during the prior-year period, and operating income is projected at between $69 million and $73 million versus $41 million.

The Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based firm said that, lifted by a benefit from currency fluctuations, new stores and higher revenues at existing units, fourth-quarter sales advanced 4.5 percent to $411 million. The increase was 0.5 percent without the effect of currency changes.

Comparable-store sales rose 2.1 percent, with Europe gaining 3.7 percent and North America up 1.2 percent. The company said its Icing stores outperformed the Claire’s division in North America. The firm reported same-store sales rose in the mid-single digits during the first days of the new fiscal year.

Claire’s plans to disclose final audited results in its annual report on or prior to April 30. Before then, it will perform its annual evaluation of goodwill and fixed assets to determine if impairment charges are necessary.

For the full year, net sales rose 5 percent to $1.34 billion and comps declined 1.7 percent. Adjusted EBITDA is projected to move up to between $231 million and $235 million from $213 million in fiscal 2008, corresponding to an increase of 8.5 percent to 10.3 percent.

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