PARIS — L’Oréal posted double-digit net profit gains for its 18th consecutive year Thursday.

The French beauty giant closed 2002 with net profits before capital gains and losses and after minority interests up 18.5 percent, to $1.58 billion. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

The French beauty giant’s adjusted operating profits grew 10.3 percent, to $1.99 billion, in the year ended Dec. 31, 2002, while its pre-tax profits of fully consolidated companies rose 13.1 percent, to $1.83 billion.

"Despite significant currency fluctuations and a difficult economic climate in some markets, L’Oréal was able to maintain strong organic growth momentum in 2002, thanks to its policy of international innovations," said Lindsay Owen-Jones, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. "Good currency hedging and strict cost control enabled us to continue to improve our margins. Overall, we achieved further strong growth in our net profits. This achievement means that, despite the monetary difficulties, we can look forward to 2003 with confidence."

By branch, adjusted operating profits were up 12.7 percent, to $1.91 billion, for cosmetics, and grew 20.3 percent, to $70 million, for dermatology.

L’Oréal said a combination of lower interest rates and a reduction of the group’s debt accounted for its net financial expenses of $153.7 million, versus $180 million in 2001. Net profits, before capital gains and losses, of fully consolidated companies totaled $1.21 billion, up 15.8 percent over 2001.

As reported, L’Oréal posted consolidated sales of $15.4 billion, up 8.9 percent on a like-for-like basis year-on-year. The company’s earnings per share were up 18.5 percent year-on-year, to $2.32. L’Oréal’s stock closed down 4.3 percent at $64.96 Thursday.

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