NEW YORK -- Tiffany & Co. reported fourth-quarter earnings soared 108 percent, but a $32.7 million charge for reconfiguring its Japanese operations generated a loss for the year.

In the quarter ended Jan. 31, earnings totaled $18 million, or $1.14 per share, against $8.7 million, or 55 cents a year ago. The company attributed the increase to sales growth at its U.S. and international divisions, and better margins. Sales in the quarter jumped 36.5 percent to $208 million, from $152.4 million. International sales skyrocketed 127 percent to $81.1 million, and U.S. retail sales increased 15 percent, to $96.9 million.

Hurt by softness in corporate and catalog sales, direct marketing sales declined 8 percent to $30 million. In the year, earnings before special items rose 43 percent to $22.5 million. After the charge from repurchasing inventory previously sold to Mitsukoshi Ltd., which had operated 29 Tiffany boutiques in Japan, the net loss was $10.2 million, against earnings of $15.7 million, or $1.

This past June, Tiffany took over the operation of the departments and now records retail sales to consumers instead of wholesale sales to Mitsukoshi. Tiffany noted international sales totals in the quarter and year were boosted by the change.

Sales for the year rose 16 percent to $566.5 million from $486.4 million. International sales advanced 35 percent to $210.4 million, and U.S. retail sales were up 11 percent to $268.7 million. Direct marketing sales declined 2 percent to $87.4 million. -- Fairchild News Service

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