PARIS — Buoyed by a strong third quarter, Germany’s Puma AG on Thursday projected full-year profit would at least double to $284.2 million.

This would represent a continuation of the third-quarter trend, when the sporting goods and apparel firm saw net earnings for the three months jump 104.4 percent to $80 million from $39.1 million in the year-earlier period.

Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates as Puma projected full-year profits of at least 245 million euros and reported net income of 69 million euros against 33.7 million euros in last year’s quarter.

The quarterly results lifted year-to-date net income to $180.1 million, or 154.8 million euros, translating into a fourth-quarter projection of at least $104.1 million or 90.2 million euros.

In the quarter ended Sept. 30, sales rocketed 37.8 percent to $466.7 million, or 402.3 million euros, from $338.7 million, or 292 million euros, bolstered by apparel, which grew 46 percent to $127.8 million, or 110.2 million euros. Footwear sales remained strong, too, leaping 34.7 percent to $310.3 million, or 267.5 million euros, while accessories sales advanced 36.5 percent to $28.4 million, or 24.5 million euros.

Excluding negative currency impact, overall sales in the quarter increased 43.5 percent, the firm said. Gross margin was up 630 basis points for the nine months to 50.4 percent from 44.1 percent.

In the quarter, sales growth in the U.S. market accelerated 46.2 percent at constant currency exchange rates to $69.6 million. This compares with 40.7 percent growth in the first half. Factoring the impact of the strong euro, sales in the U.S. grew more slowly at 26.8 percent.

Puma predicted growth in the fourth quarter “should be at the lower end of the double-digit range,” adding that early reaction to next year’s collection has led the firm to anticipate a “positive start in 2004.”

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