CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Finish Line sales beat market estimates

Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:42am EDT

* Q4 EPS in-line with analysts estimates

* Sales rose nearly 19 pct to $456.3 mln vs est $432.62 mln

* Says Gart Capital to invest $10 mln in its specialty running biz

March 30 (Reuters) - Finish Line Inc's fourth-quarter sales trumped market estimates driven by a higher demand for its running shoes and said it is teaming up with Gart Capital Partners to create the largest operator of specialty running business in the U.S.

However, the company forecast first-quarter earnings to be down 30 percent on lower margins. The company had reported earnings of 30 cents in the first quarter of last year.

For the first quarter, Wall Street expects the company to report earnings of 36 cents.

Indianapolis, Indiana-based Finish Line said Gart Capital will invest $10 million in its Running Specialty Group to tap into the $1 billion worth running market.

Finish Line, which sells brands from companies such as Nike Inc, Puma and Adidas AG, said headquarters of the Running Specialty Group will be relocated to Denver, where Gart Capital will manage the day-to-day operations.

For the fourth-quarter ended March 3, Finish Line posted earnings of $41.9 million, or 80 cents a share, compared with $34.2 million, or 63 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Before exceptional items, earnings were 81 cents, in line with analysts' estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose to $456.3 million, ahead of analyst estimates of $432.62 million.

The company's shares, whose larger rival includes Foot Locker Inc, closed at $25.34 on Thursday on the Nasdaq.

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