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Jones Q3 Report Tops Estimates

The company said its new and refocused sportswear assortment is performing better and that trend is expected to continue.

NEW YORK — As speculation continues to swirl over its possible sale and breakup, The Jones Group Inc. said Wednesday that adjusted earnings per share for the third quarter beat Wall Street’s consensus estimate by 6 cents.

The company posted a 66.5 percent increase in net income for the three months ended Oct. 5, rising to $28.3 million, or 38 cents a diluted share, compared with $17 million, or 22 cents, a year ago. On an adjusted basis, earnings per share were 48 cents for the quarter, versus adjusted EPS of 57 cents a year ago. That’s still 6 cents better for the current period than the consensus estimate among Wall Street analysts of 42 cents. Net sales fell 1.3 percent to $1.01 billion from $1.25 billion.

For the nine months, net income rose 6.7 percent to $25.5 million, or 34 cents a diluted share, from $23.9 million, or 31 cents, a year ago. Net sales rose 1.8 percent to $2.84 billion from $2.79 billion.

Wesley R. Card, chief executive officer, told Wall Street analysts in a conference call that the “strongest segment once again was domestic wholesale jeanswear.”

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Card added that given the economic backdrop, “we’re maintaining our overall conservative approach to planning. It still remains unclear how consumers’ discretionary spending will develop in the final quarter of 2013, although economic conditions continue to be slowly improving worldwide.”

In a telephone interview, Card noted candidly that as the weather cooled in October, there was strong demand across some categories. “We’re in a strong boot cycle, as well as casual shoes. We could have a very good fourth quarter. It could shift quickly. It could shift with the weather or different macroeconomic conditions, such as the feelings people have on job security and where they stand.”

He said that denim for spring is trending toward softer colors, and “new treatments and other washes with interesting textures” have helped the company stay ahead of the competition.

Richard Dickson, president and ceo of branded businesses, said that there’s been a rebound in dresses, “particularly in Anne Klein, with graphic prints inspired by the Anne Klein archive.” Dresses in the Jones line also feature graphics, but they’re more “signature prints, consistent graphic prints refreshed season after season,” according to Dickson.

Card declined to comment on the status of a possible sale of the apparel and footwear divisions at Jones.

A report from Citigroup analyst Jenna Giannelli said, “We think it would be one of its higher-growth assets such as Nine West and Stuart Weitzman for which we think they could fetch at least $1 billion.”

Sycamore Partners is said to be tracking the footwear unit, while G-III Apparel Group is looking to acquire the apparel component. Financial sources said that G-III is out shopping for financing. Neither Sycamore, G-III nor Jones have ever commented about any possible transaction.

Shares of Jones closed at $15.35 in trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.