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Puma Earnings Up 17% in Qtr.

Sporting goods and apparel retailer Puma AG posted a robust jump in fourth-quarter earnings, buoyed by strong sales in Europe and Asia.

Sporting goods and apparel retailer Puma AG posted a robust jump in fourth-quarter earnings, buoyed by strong sales in Europe and Asia.

For the fourth quarter, earnings leapt 17 percent to 38.3 million euros, or $56 million, on sales that gained 5 percent to 504.5 million euros, or $736 million. Dollar figures are at the average exchange rate.

On a per share basis, earnings climbed to 2.40 euros, or $3.51, from 2.03 euros, or $2.96, in the same period of the prior year.

By region, sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, rose 19.9 percent while Asia grew 14.3 percent. Sales in the Americas declined 3.3 percent.

For the full-year period, earnings increased 2.2 percent to 269 million euros, or $371 million, on sales that rose 0.2 percent to 2.37 billion euros, or $3.28 billion.

During the year, Puma opened 25 new stores worldwide, bringing its store total to 116.

The company expects single-digit sales growth in 2008, but a decline in operating margin due to major sports events and marketing expenses.

“Although Puma faced a challenging year, we did not only meet most of our expectations in 2007, but even exceeded them in many points,” said Jochen Zeitz, chief executive officer. “Puma has an excellent and successful start into the extraordinary sports year 2008 by winning the African Cup of Nations through Egypt’s win, securing a strong brand visibility on the pitch as a leading equipment supplier.”

Management said it plans to increase its shareholder dividend 10 percent to 2.75 euros, or about $3.80, a share.

French luxury company PPR acquired a 62 percent stake in the company last year.