NEW YORK (AP) -- Tiffany says its fourth-quarter net income edged up less than 1 percent, but still beat Wall Street predictions as strong customer demand in Asia for its pricey baubles offset weakness in the U.S.
The upscale jewelry company also offered an annual sales outlook that topped analysts' estimates, and its shares rose nearly 2 percent Friday.
The results, which include the critical holiday season, show Tiffany's resilience even as it faces challenges in the U.S. and a fiscal crisis in Europe.
For the quarter ended Jan. 31, Tiffany earned $179.6 million, or $1.40 per share. Revenue rose 4 percent to $1.24 billion.
Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.36 per share on $1.25 billion in revenue.
"While financial results in fiscal 2012 were disappointing due to lower-than expected sales growth and pressures on gross margin, we continued to maintain a longer term focus on strengthening global awareness of the Tiffany & Co. brand," Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Total sales in the Americas region increased 2 percent to $620 million in the fourth quarter and 2 percent to $1.8 billion in the full year. The area represents 48 percent of last year's global revenue. Revenue at stores open at least a year declined 2 percent in both the quarter and full year on a constant exchange rate basis. Sales in the New York flagship store dropped 3 percent in both the quarter and full year, while that figure dropped 2 percent for its branch locations for both periods.
In the Asia-Pacific region, total sales rose 13 percent to $254 million in the fourth quarter and 8 percent to $810 million in the full year. The region represents 21 percent of worldwide sales. On a constant exchange rate basis, total sales rose 10 percent in the fourth quarter due to sales growth in Greater China and in other markets and rose 8 percent in the full year. On that basis, revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 6 percent in the quarter and 2 percent for the full year.
Total sales in Japan declined 6 percent to $192 million in the fourth-quarter, reflecting a weaker Japanese yen versus the U.S. dollar and increased 4 percent to $639 million or 17 percent of worldwide sales in the full year. However, on a constant exchange rate basis, total sales rose 2 percent in the quarter and 6 percent in the full year. On that basis, revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 2 percent and 7 percent in the quarter and full year respectively.
In Europe, total sales rose 3 percent to $146 million in the fourth quarter due to mixed performance by country and also rose 3 percent to $432 million or 11 percent of worldwide sales in the full year. On a constant exchange rate basis, total sales rose 3 percent and 7 percent in the quarter and full year respectively. Revenue at stores opened at least year were unchanged in the quarter and rose 2 percent in the full year.
The New York-based jewelry company also says it expects its first-quarter earnings from operations will fall about 15 percent to 20 percent as a result of profitability pressures and higher marketing costs, but pick up later in the year.
For the current year, Tiffany expects sales growth of 6 percent to 8 percent, which means that sales are expected to be anywhere from $4.02 billion to $4.09 billion. Analysts project $4.02 billion
It expects full-year earnings of $3.43 per share to $3.53 per share. Analysts expect $3.46 per share.
Tiffany shares rose $1.32, or 1.9 percent, to close at $69.23 Friday.