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Ralph Lauren sees sales gains in holiday quarter, raises dividend

By Phil Wahba

Nov 6 (Reuters) - Ralph Lauren Corp on Wednesday raised the low end of its full-year sales forecast on expectations of strong gains during the holiday quarter, and the designer clothing company increased its dividend.

Shares of Ralph Lauren rose 3.7 percent to $177.57 in morning trading.

Sales were strongest at Ralph Lauren's own stores, which generate just under half of companywide sales and where revenue rose 6.5 percent, stripping out currency fluctuations.

In recent years, Ralph Lauren has been opening more of its own stores and relying less on its wholesale business. The company will increase spending on its retail stores through the rest of the year ending in late March even though it warned that this would pinch its operating profit margin.

Revenue increased 1 percent in the wholesale business, which sells brands like Polo and Lauren by Ralph Lauren at department stores such as Macy's Inc. The company said growth in North America had offset declines in shipments to European and Japanese customers.

But Chief Financial Officer Christopher Peterson told analysts on a conference call that wholesale sales would be up "significantly" in the second half, helped in part by improvements in Europe.

Ralph Lauren now expects revenue for the year ending in late March to rise between 5 percent and 7 percent, versus an earlier range of 4 percent to 7 percent.

For the current quarter, which includes the holiday season, Ralph Lauren said it expected revenue to be up between 8 percent and 10 percent, despite a two-point hit from currency movements.

The company said net revenue, including from licensing, rose 2.8 percent to $1.915 billion in the second quarter ended Sept. 28. The result was in line with Wall Street projections.

Ralph Lauren reported a profit $205 million, or $2.23 per share, down from $214 million, or $2.29 per share, a year earlier, but above analysts' forecasts by 3 cents.

The company raised its annual dividend 12.5 percent to $1.80 per share.