NEW YORK — Columbia Sportswear Co. reported hefty fourth-quarter profit gains as strong overseas sales helped offset lower U.S. revenues.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, the Portland, Ore.-based outerwear and footwear manufacturer boasted that net income grew by more than a fifth, or 20.4 percent, to $29.1 million, or 63 cents a diluted share. In the year-ago quarter, the company recorded earnings of $24.2 million, or 61 cents. Earnings per share shattered the Wall Street estimate by 9 cents.

Sales for the period grew 1.4 percent to $217.3 million from $214.3 million in the year-ago quarter.

"Our steadfast approach to tight inventory management and effective cost controls has allowed us to achieve healthy gains in sales and net income, even in the face of a continuing difficult retail environment," said chief executive officer Tim Boyle in a statement. "We are committed to our key growth strategies, which include increasing the productivity of our customers, an emphasis on growing the business internationally, further developing our sportswear and footwear businesses, and further expanding retail distribution into department stores and specialty footwear retailers."

Columbia’s domestic sales fell 4.5 percent to $145.8 million, but Canadian sales grew 3.3 percent to $24.9 million and European sales jumped 16.1 percent to $23.1 million. All other international sales added another $23.5 million in revenues, up 33.5 percent over last year.

Columbia’s sportswear business rose 20.4 percent in the quarter, an increase that was offset by a 19.5 percent decrease in the branded footwear business. Columbia blamed the poor footwear showing on warm winter weather in 2001, coupled with a lack of fresh product for this year.

Gross margin for the quarter expanded 140 basis points to 47.2 percent of sales from 45.8 percent a year ago, and selling, general and administrative expenses dropped 100 basis points to 25.9 percent of sales from 26.9 percent last year.

Overall, for the full fiscal year, Columbia said net income gained 15.4 percent to $102.5 million, or $2.56 a diluted share. That compares with last year when the company earned net income of $88.8 million, or $2.23 cents.

Sales for the year advanced 4.8 percent to $816.3 million.Columbia said it is maintaining its prior first-quarter earnings growth guidance of between 14 and 16 percent on a projected 13 to 15 percent sales increase.

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