NEW YORK — Belk Inc., the Charlotte, N.C.-based regional department store chain, reported its year-end results Tuesday, citing a 10.3 percent increase in net income to $136.9 million and a 21.3 percent increase in sales to $2.97 billion.

While comp-store sales rose only 1.2 percent, there was a big gain in total sales last year due to the acquisition of 39 Proffitt’s and McRae’s stores from Saks Inc. and from Belk store openings. Proffitt’s and McRae’s stores opened as Belk on March 8. The $620 million deal was completed in July.

Net income for 2005, excluding noncomparable items, was $139.1 million, up 11.5 percent. In 2004, Belk reported net income of $124.1 million and $2.45 billion in sales.

The privately owned Belk does not break out its fourth-quarter results, but does report other quarters. Based on its third-quarter and nine-month report, Belk’s fourth quarter generated $99.9 million in net income and about $1.1 billion in sales.

Belk said top-performing categories for the year were men’s apparel and cosmetics, as well as private labels.

Tim Belk, chairman and chief executive officer of the 273-unit chain, said in a statement: “We achieved substantial sales and earnings improvement during the year, thanks in large part to the efforts of our management and associate team. Additionally, we ended the year with a strong balance sheet that positions us for continued growth and success.”

Aside from the Proffitt’s and McRae’s acquisition, highlights of the year were the sale of its private label credit business and accounts receivables to GE Consumer Finance.

This year, Belk expects to open 10 stores, representing 756,700 square feet, and complete eight expansions and two renovations.

The company’s board approved a self-tender offer to repurchase up to 2.6 million shares of its class A and/or class B common stock at a price of $19 a share. The tender offering will be launched after Belk files its annual report on form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission around April 13. Future stock repurchases are anticipated “to provide further ongoing liquidity opportunities for shareholders,” Belk said.

This story first appeared in the March 30, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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