By  on May 12, 2010

Shares of Maidenform Brands Inc. rose 14.2 percent to $24.90 Tuesday after the innerwear apparel maker said first-quarter profits doubled, due in part to strong gains in its shapewear business. The firm also raised its guidance above Wall Street’s estimates.

The Iselin, N.J.-based company said that, for the three months ended April 3, net income hit $12.1 million, or 51 cents a diluted share, compared with $6 million, or 26 cents, in the year-ago period. Sales rose 25.1 percent to $142.9 million, from $114.2 million a year earlier. Wholesale sales increased 27.4 percent to $131.6 million, from $103.3 million, while retail sales rose 3.7 percent to $11.3 million from $10.9 million.

Top- and bottom-line results exceeded analysts’ expectations for earnings per share of 40 cents on revenue of $133.9 million.

Leaner inventories and reduced promotional activity drove the firm’s gross margin up to 36.3 percent of sales versus 32 percent a year earlier.

Within the wholesale segment, Maidenform said the department store sector registered a 32.3 percent gain in revenue, to $57.3 million, while sales to mass merchants increased 14.9 percent to $45.4 million. Other revenues advanced 41 percent to $28.9 million.

Shapewear sales, up 34 percent, were key to the quarter’s performance.

“Shapewear now makes up more than a third of Maidenform’s global business and is the fastest-growing category in intimate apparel,” said chief executive officer Maurice Reznik on the company call. “Importantly, it is also our fastest-growing segment and highest-margin contributor.”

He expects the category’s momentum, represented by a 14 percent compound annual growth rate, to continue.

The firm projected second-quarter EPS to be between 45 cents and 50 cents, with sales growing in the low- to mid-20 percent range from the year-ago level of $114.2 million. Analysts were looking for second-quarter earnings of 37 cents on sales of $125.8 million.

Maidenform shares hit a new 52-week high of $25.31 in intraday trading.

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