GREENSBORO, N.C.--Guilford Mills Inc. reported a sharp turnaround in earnings in the fourth quarter ended Oct. 2, aided by a strong demand for apparel fabrics. Earnings came to $8.4 million, or 61 cents a share, against a loss of $1.1 million before a $3.1 million gain from an accounting change. After the gain, year-ago net came to $2 million, or 15 cents. Earnings handily topped Wall Street's mean estimate of 50 cents a share. Sales jumped 46.6 percent to $207.3 million from $141.5 million. "We experienced a very strong turnaround from very weak apparel markets that existed last year," said Charles A. Hayes, chairman and chief executive officer. He also cited a strong performance by its automotive group, an upturn in Europe and a contribution from its newly acquired Mexican operations. Terrence E. Geremski, chief financial officer, said apparel recovered strongly in the fourth quarter, led by swimwear and stretch fabrics. Swimwear fabric sales rose about 40 percent in the quarter; stretch products for activewear and shapewear were up about 50 percent. Robe and sleepwear fabrics were up substantially in the quarter, but most of that reflected shifts from the third quarter. Home fashion fabric sales were flat to slightly down. For the year, earnings rose 20 percent to $25.1 million, or $1.71 a share, with sales up 9 percent to $703.7 million. Earnings were adjusted for a change in the fiscal yearend to September from June. Geremski said apparel and home furnishing fabric sales in the year increased 6.3 percent to $412.1 million. Automotive fabric sales rose 12.1 percent to $182.7 million, Europe sales, mainly automotive, advanced 7.3 percent to $91.1 million, while Guilford's new Mexican unit, acquired in August, contributed $8.8 million in sales.
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