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Estee Lauder 4Q up but shares fall on weak outlook
Estee Lauder 4Q net income jumps 72 percent but shares fall on soft outlook
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) ' Strong sales at airports and U.S. department stores and in emerging markets helped The Estee Lauder Cos.' fourth-quarter net income rise 72 percent.

But the company sees a rougher year ahead than analysts were expecting, and its shares dropped 7 percent.

The company, which makes Clinique, Bobbi Brown and MAC cosmetics, said Monday that its net income was $41.1 million, or 20 cents per share, during the three months that ended July 29. That's up from $23.9 million, or 12 cents per share.

Excluding one-time items such as restructuring, Estee Lauder earned 24 cents per share. That matched analyst expectations, according to FactSet.

Its revenue rose 12 percent to $2.06 billion from $1.84 billion and topped analysts' average forecast for $2.02 billion.

By region, the company's revenue rose 10 percent in the Americas, 13 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 16 percent in Asia Pacific, driven by 33 percent growth in China. Estee Lauder's North America results were the best in a decade due to strong sales in U.S. department stores, said CEO Fabrizio Freda.

Luxury shoppers have recovered faster than others from the recession, and Freda said this trend is continuing.

"Our high-end brands enjoyed double-digit growth as the luxury consumer has been shopping enthusiastically again," Freda said during a call with analysts.

Skin care was the strongest during the quarter, with revenue up 15 percent to $3.72 billion. Makeup sales rose 13 percent to $3.37 billion.

Fragrance revenue rose 9 percent to $1.24 billion. Hair care rose 4 percent to $432.3 million.

For the year, net income rose 47 percent to $700.8 million, or $3.48 per share, from $478.3 million or $2.38 per share last year.

Total revenue rose 13 percent to $8.81 billion from $7.8 billion last year.

Estee Lauder said its business in airport stores was helped by more people flying, particularly in Asia.

The company expects net income of $1.10 to $1.20 per share in the current quarter, excluding restructuring costs. It expects revenue to rise 11 percent to 13 percent, excluding the effect of currency fluctuations. Analysts expect adjusted earnings of $1.12 per share.

Estee Lauder, based in New York, said it plans to increase global ad spending in 2012 and update business software in 25 business units over the next two years.

During the fiscal year the company will "aggressively pursue growth in emerging markets and distribution," Freda said. "We have strong momentum that we will support with higher investment spending, and intend to continue to gain share globally and increase profitability."

For the full year, the company predicts net income of $4 to $4.20 per share, excluding one-time items. Analysts expect $4.36 per share.

The company expects to see its revenue rise 6 percent to 8 percent, excluding the effect of foreign currency fluctuations.

Jefferies analyst Per E. Ostlund said that outlook might be conservative, driven by "recent economic headlines as well as what we believe is management's overarching conservatism in its forecasts."

Ostlund kept his "buy" rating on the stock and said overall results were in line with his forecast.

Shares fell $7.09, or 7 percent, to $93.76 by early afternoon. They have traded between $55.31 and $108.77 over the past year.

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