By  on May 1, 2011

Shares of Columbia Sportswear Co. shot up nearly 6 percent Friday after the firm reported double-digit increases in its first-quarter profits and wholesale backlog and raised its quarterly dividend.Net income for the three months ended March 31 was up 38.4 percent to $12.8 million, or 37 cents a diluted share, 8 cents higher than the consensus estimate of analysts carried by Yahoo Finance. Year-ago profits came to $9.2 million, or 27 cents.Sales rose 10.9 percent to $333.1 million from $300.4 million in the 2010 quarter. Sales in the U.S. were up 11.1 percent to $192.5 million, 57.8 percent of the total, and sales of the Columbia brand were up 7.6 percent to $288.1 million, 86.5 percent of the total. Sales of the Mountain Hardwear and Sorel brands picked up 23.8 percent and 157.5 percent, respectively, to $31.7 million and $10.3 million.Fueling the expansion of profit at a faster rate than revenues, gross margin hit 44.9 percent of sales, a 250 basis-point improvement over the comparable 2010 quarter.Columbia’s wholesale backlog, a barometer of its outerwear and other businesses for fall, stood at $860.8 million, 18.7 percent above the year-ago level. Tim Boyle, president and chief executive officer of the Portland, Ore.-based firm, said the expansion of the backlog “included increases in each of our four major brands, geographic regions and product categories and show a favorable shift toward our innovative products.”He cited the Omni-Heat as a standout, with advance orders more than double from fall 2010.Columbia increased its quarterly dividend 10 percent, to 22 cents a share from 20 cents, payable on June 2 to shareholders of record May 19.In its current second quarter, its lowest volume period of the year, the company projects an operating loss of between $22 million and $24 million with about a 200 basis-point drop in gross margin and up to a 100 point hike in selling, general and administrative costs as a percentage of net sales. However, for the full-year sales are expected to increase 14 to 16 percent and gross margins to expected rise about 100 basis points.Results were reported Thursday evening. On Friday, shares rose $3.74, or 5.8 percent, to end the week at $67.99.

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