MILAN — A surge in sales in Eastern Europe and Russia combined with a further consolidation of activity helped Mariella Burani Fashion Group post bottom- and top-line gains in the first quarter.

For the period ended March 31, the Italian fashion and manufacturing company said earnings from continuing operations grew 1.7 percent to 6.1 million euros from 6 million euros a year ago. In dollars, income from continuing operations was $7.6 million versus $6.4 million. Figures have been converted to dollars at average exchange for the corresponding periods.

Consolidated revenues surged 17.9 percent to 105.5 million euros from 89.5 million euros a year ago, or $131.7 million versus $96 million last year.

The company, which owns Mariella Burani and accessories brands Braccialini and Francesco Biasia, as well as produces diffusion lines under license for Vivienne Westwood and Emanuel Ungaro, attributed the profit increase to a greater synergy of group resources and a higher profit margin in its burgeoning leather goods division. Leather goods in the first quarter generated 35.6 percent of total sales compared with 28.3 percent in the same period last year.

Europe continued to generate the lion’s share of sales, almost 90 percent,with Italy, Russia and Eastern Europe marking strong gains. The company said sales in Russia and Eastern Europe represent 15.4 percent of total revenue, up 2.2 percent from the first quarter of 2003. Sales through directly operated outlets also rose in the first three months of the year, up 4.1 percent to 64.1 percent of total sales.

The group said it expects its direct retail network to grow to more than 200 outlets by the end of the year.

— Courtney Colavita

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