PARIS — Groupe Clarins closed 2002 with consolidated net sales up 6.1 percent, to $996.5 million, year-on-year. At constant group structure and at current exchange rates, sales rose 8.2 percent.

In the fourth quarter, the firm’s consolidated net sales spiked 14.4 percent, to $291.3 million, or at a comparable basis by 19 percent, to $254.7 million.

All dollar figures were converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

Clarins said in a statement that it expects its operating margin for 2002, which will be reported on April 3, to be "above expectations, thanks to strong sales in the last four months of the year and strict control over nonproductive expenses." In September 2002, the firm had warned that its consolidated operating margin for the year would be lower than in 2001, when it was at the 9.2 percent level.

Clarins attributed its 2002 sales performance to "strong group brand awareness" well-received product launches, particularly the Clarins Men skin care line, and "continuous growth in existing product lines."

The group’s treatment and makeup divisions together rang up $586.5 million. Its fragrance division generated $378 million in the year.

By beauty brand, Clarins ended 2002 up 4.3 percent, to $587.3 million; Thierry Mugler, up 8.7 percent, to $191.2 million; Azzaro, up 4 percent, to $105.5 million, and the group’s perfume distribution branch up 13.7 percent, to $112.5 million.

Clarins said currency fluctuations last year reduced the group’s net sales by $19.7 million.

By region, sales for the company in Europe in 2002 were up 7.2 percent, to $609.9. million; up 8.2 percent, to $259.4 million, in North America; down 3.4 percent, to $76.3 million, in Asia, and down 1.5 percent, to $50.9 million, in the Mideast, Australia, Latin America and Africa.

Looking ahead for 2003, Olivier Courtin, vice president of research and development at Clarins, said in a financial analyst teleconference Thursday that he expects sales of the firm’s cosmetics division — comprised of fragrance, makeup and skin care — to grow by 5 percent on a like-for-like basis.

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