NEW YORK — Inditex Group scored a 22.8 percent increase in first-quarter net income, a number that would have been higher if not for unfavorable currency swings.

The La Coruna, Spain-based operator of Zara and six other fashion nameplates said net income for the three months ended April 30 shot up to $96.5 million from $78.6 million in 2002, as earnings before interest and taxes rose 7.3 percent to $146.2 million from $136.3 million. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

Sales for the quarter moved up 15.2 percent to $1.15 billion from $1 billion in the same quarter last year, reflecting both new stores and same-store sales growth. Comparable-store sales weren’t specified but were said to be in line with company projections.

The company noted that, excluding currency fluctuation, sales would have risen 22.4 percent. The lower results are principally due to the depreciation of Latin American currencies in the last fiscal year. The company operates about 185 stores in Latin and South America.

Recently, a spokesman for Inditex said that, with 80 percent of its volume done in euros, the impact of the dollar-euro exchange is limited for the firm. “Europe is the main center of activity of our company, containing the majority of our stores, and where we intend to keep concentrating the majority of our stores, and where we intend to keep concentrating the majority of our openings in the following years,” the spokesman said.

The firm opened 76 stores during the period, one-quarter under the Zara banner, bringing its total store count to 1,634. The company also said it anticipates it will open between 280 and 335 stores in 2003, including between 85 and 95 Zara stores, 80 percent of which would be outside of Spain.

Gross margin in the quarter reached $587.3 million, or 51 percent of sales, compared with 51.5 percent last year. Inventories increased 27.4 percent to $518.9 million from $407.2 million

To date, Inditex said second-quarter sales growth is in line with its expectations.

Inditex said it is expected to release results for the first half ending July 31 on Sept. 18.

By division, units opened at quarter end tallied 550 for Zara, 314 for Pull & Bear, 259 for Massimo Dutti, 212 for Bershka, 161 for Stradivarius, 70 for Kiddy’s Class and 68 for Oysho.

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