By  on December 12, 2008

The retail segment of Harry Winston Diamond Corp. posted a larger loss in the third quarter, but the firm, helped by a surging U.S. dollar, reversed a year-ago loss to post a profit in the period.

For the quarter ended Oct. 31, the Toronto-based firm’s retail operations recorded an operating loss of $4 million, higher than the $3.6 million loss in the year-ago period. Retail sales in the three months increased 7.7 percent to $57.9 million from $53.8 million last year.

The company’s consolidated operations, which include its mining business, posted third-quarter net income of $71.9 million, or $1.17 a diluted share, compared with a net loss of $7.4 million, or 13 cents a share, a year ago. The earnings included a foreign exchange gain of $49 million, or 80 cents a share, due to the weakening of the Canadian dollar versus its U.S. counterpart.

On a conference call with investors, chairman and chief executive officer Robert Gannicott said the diamond industry is struggling to “comprehend the effects of credit constraint and general global economic conditions.”

For the first nine months of the year, the company’s retail business narrowed its operating loss to $519,000 from $1.5 million last year. Retail sales in the nine months increased 18.3 percent to $213.7 million from $180.6 million.

The recent robbery of one of the firm’s Paris showrooms, in which armed thieves made off with more than $100 million worth of merchandise, occurred after the third quarter ended. The company said the losses were insured.

The company’s shares rose 12 cents, or 2.5 percent, to close at $4.85 in Thursday’s New York Stock Exchange session.

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