NEW YORK — The Alberto-Culver Co. saw profits accelerate twice as fast as sales in the second quarter.

The Melrose Park, Ill.-based beauty care firm posted a 15.9 percent gain in second-quarter net income to $37.9 million, or 63 cents a diluted share, from $32.7 million, or 55 cents, in the year-ago period. Sales in the three months ended March 31 rose 7.5 percent to $707 million from $658 million. For the six months, income rose 19.25 percent to $73.9 million, or $1.23 a diluted share, from $61.9 million, or $1.05, last year. Sales were up 10.4 percent to $1.4 billion from $1.27 billion.

Howard Bernick, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement, "We have continued to see significant strength in our St. Ives skin care business in North America and in our global hair care businesses, driven by Alberto VO5 and TRESemme as we continue to outpace the categories in which we compete."

Considering the firm’s ability to prosper despite "difficult winter weather conditions, this year’s late timing of the Easter holiday and a worldwide retail shopping slowdown caused by sluggish economies and the war in Iraq," Bernick said that the company was positioned to produce its "12th consecutive year of record sales and record profits."

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