NEW YORK — A noncash charge depleted Alberto-Culver Co.’s bottom line in the first quarter, masking otherwise robust profit and sales growth.

This story first appeared in the January 23, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, the Melrose Park, Ill.-based personal care and beauty firm said net income declined 95.2 percent to $1.7 million, or 3 cents a diluted share. That compares with last year’s earnings of $36 million, or 60 cents. Excluding a one-time, noncash charge related to stock conversion, the company would have recorded an 18.8 percent jump in profits to $42.8 million, or 70 cents, which exceeded the Wall Street estimate by a penny.

Sales for the period grew 9.8 percent to $764.8 million from $696.8 million a year ago.

A number of factors drove the recent quarter’s results, said chief executive officer Howard Bernick in a statement, including good sales and profit growth at Sally Beauty stores, the Beauty Systems Group and within consumer products driven by the strength of the company’s Alberto VO5, St. Ives and TRESemme worldwide beauty brands.

By division, the Sally Beauty Supply business expanded to 2,065 stores in North America and to 221 international stores in the U.K., Germany and Japan, the firm said. At the Beauty Systems Group, the number of stores increased to 667, while the number of sales consultants increased to 1,218.

In conjunction with its first-quarter earnings release, the company also said it will initiate a three-for-two stock split and increase its quarterly cash dividend to 15 cents from 10 1/2 cents. The split will take effect on Feb. 20, when one additional share of common stock will be issued for every two shares held to stockholders of record as of business close on Feb. 2.