Byline: Melissa Drier

ASCHHEIM, Germany — Pushed by its signature brand, profits after taxes for the year ended Oct. 31, 1999, at the Escada Group rose 19.3 percent to reach $24.3 million.
At its annual financial press conference here announcing the figures, Escada reported that earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) grew 11.2 percent, hitting $34.6 million, based on current exchange rates.
On the basis of strong profits, the Group will recommend the equivalent of a 50 cent rise in dividends for both common and preferred shares at its annual shareholders meeting on May 3. That would bring the dividend for common shares to $3.98 and preferred shares to $4.48.
Group sales, as reported in January, were up 3.5 percent to reach $721 million.
The Escada brand saw sales rise 5.7 percent to $470.6 million. Due to its withdrawal from the North American market, sales for the Laurel division were down 5.6 percent.
Laurel is being repositioned, with alterations in distribution and cost structures, Escada said, adding that the division is already back to operating in the black.
Sales were flat at the Primera AG unit, which constitutes the European collections Cavita and Apriori, but the Kemper and Cerruti divisions saw gains of 3.3 percent.
Escada officials also announced first-quarter results for the period ended Jan. 31 in which group sales were up 11.8 percent, reaching $162.2 million.
Growth was again primarily generated by the Escada brand and its retail operations, and for the year ahead, the company is projecting double-digit sales gains.
Improved cost structures and the continued focus on the Escada brand is expected to further boost profits in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the company said.

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