By  on November 7, 2006

MILAN — Luxottica SpA saw double-digit profit growth in the third quarter, citing strong momentum for fashion branded eyewear.

Net profits for the three months ended Sept. 30 rose 16.6 percent to 104.1 million euros, or $133 million. Sales rose 9.8 percent to 1.12 billion euros, or $1.43 billion. Excluding the effect of exchange rates, sales growth would have been 13.8 percent, the company said.

Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at average exchange rates for the period to which they refer.

"After nine months of extremely positive results, today our business is strong with both wholesale and retail on track to deliver a record year," Luxottica chief executive officer Andrea Guerra said in a statement.

The firm reiterated its full-year forecast for earnings per share coming in between 93 euro cents ($1.18) and 94 euro cents ($1.19), a target that won't be affected by last month's sale of Things Remembered. In the third quarter, Luxottica posted earnings of 0.23 euros per share, or 29 cents.

Luxottica sold gift chain Things Remembered to GB Merchant Partners LLC and Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. for about $200 million. The third-quarter results show that the chain, classified as "discontinued operations," posted losses of 2.9 million euros, or $3.7 million, compared with 444 million euros, or $541.7 million, the year before.

Luxottica's third-quarter operating profits advanced 20.5 percent to 186.5 million euros, or $238.7 million.

Retail sales for the three-month period rose 4.8 percent to 838.6 million euros, or $1.07 billion, led by growth at the Lens­Crafters and Sunglass Hut chains. Wholesale sales advanced 26.7 percent to 359.5 million euros, or $460.2 million. The company cited growing demand for luxury and fashion brands such as Ray-Ban, Bulgari, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Versace.

As of Sept. 30, Luxottica's consolidated outstanding debt was 1.3 billion euros, or $1.65 billion.

In terms of the nine-month period, Luxottica's net profits rose 28 percent to 328.6 million euros, or $407.5 million, while sales advanced 15.1 percent to 3.57 billion euros, or $4.43 billion.

Last week, Luxottica inked a deal to buy the D.O.C Optics chain in the U.S., giving the Italian company another 100 stores, most of them in the Midwest. Luxottica paid about $90 million for D.O.C, which is expected to post 2006 sales of more than $100 million.

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