Tiffany’s quarterly sales rose 11%; annual sales rose 10%

Tiffany & Co., said that net sales for the fourth quarter rose 11% to $810.1 million, versus $731.5 million in 2003. Worldwide comparable store sales rose 5%. On a constant-exchange-rate basis that excludes the effect of currency fluctuations, net sales and comparable store sales rose 9% and 3%.

For the year, net sales increased 10% to $2.2 billion, compared with $2 billion and worldwide comparable store sales rose 7%. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, net sales and comparable store sales increased 8% and 4%.

Strong retail sales growth in the U.S. was partly offset by weak sales in Japan and a lower gross margin, the company said.

Net earnings in the fourth quarter increased 96% to $217million, from $110.4 million, in 2003. Net earnings in the fiscal year rose 41% to $304.3 million compared with $215.5 million in the prior year.

Much of the company’s earnings gain was a result of the sale of its equity stake in Aber Diamond Corp.

“Tiffany’s operating performance in 2004 did not meet the objectives management set at the start of the year,” said Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and chief executive officer. “Although we achieved strong comparable store and total sales growth in the U.S. and certain international markets, we did not achieve the sales results we were looking for in Japan. Earnings in 2004 were significantly affected by a decline in gross margin caused by sharply higher costs for precious metals and diamonds, as well as by the geographic and product sales mix.”