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Chico's 4Q profit climbs as shoppers spend more

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- Chico's said Thursday that its fiscal fourth-quarter net income climbed 26 percent as the women's clothing retailer opened new stores and sold more items at full price. The period also had an extra week of sales.

For the 14 weeks ended Feb. 2, the owner of the Chico's and White House Black Market chains earned $31.5 million, or 19 cents per share. That compares with $25.1 million, or 15 cents per share, in the 13-week period a year earlier.

Stripping out costs related to its Boston Proper acquisition, earnings were 20 cents per share, in line with Wall Street expectations.

Revenue rose 15 percent to $651.9 million from $569.2 million, as sales rose at established stores and Chico's had 101 more stores operating. Still, Wall Street analysts polled by FactSet expected higher revenue of $666.1 million.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key indicator of a retailer's health, climbed 3.7 percent. This metric excludes results from stores recently opened or closed. Shoppers made more purchases and spent more. The company was more profitable as it sold more clothing at full price.

The company raised its quarterly dividend slightly, to 5.5 cents from 5.25 cents, and may buy back up to $300 million of its shares. Buying back stock can benefit shareholders, as it makes existing holdings more valuable.

For all of 2012, net income rose 28 percent to $180.2 million, or $1.08 per share, from $140.9 million, or 82 cents per share, in 2011. Revenue rose 17 percent to $2.58 billion from $2.2 billion.

The company said its long-term goals are to increase revenue by a low double-digit percentage and boost earnings per share by a mid-teen percentage.

Chico's FAS Inc., based in Fort Myers, Fla., runs 611 stores and 99 outlets in the U.S. White House Black Market operates 401 stores and 45 outlets, while Soma Intimates, a lingerie chain, has 198 stores and 16 outlets.

Shares fell 21 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $16.20 in premarket trading.