Apparel retailer Ascena's shares climb as second quarter beats Street

Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:53pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Ascena Retail Group Inc (ASNA.O) said its fourth-quarter profit more than tripled, comfortably beating Wall Street estimates, as e-commerce sales surged and gross margins improved with fewer markdowns.

Shares of the company, formerly known as Dress Barn Inc, rose 15 percent in heavy trading after the bell to $19.90. They had closed at $17.32 on Nasdaq.

Ascena, known for its women's plus-size apparel, on Tuesday forecast full-year profit of $1.25 to $1.30 per share, below analysts' average estimate of $1.36.

"As we head into fiscal 2014, we expect macro-economic factors to continue to pressure the apparel industry," Chief Executive David Jaffe said.

Fourth quarter income from continuing operations rose to $38.3 million, or 23 cents per share, from $11.2 million, or 7 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding items, income from continuing operations was 34 cents per share.

Analysts, on average, had forecast earnings of 20 cents per share on revenue of $1.16 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales for the fourth quarter of rose 27 percent to $1.2 billion, while e-commerce sales jumped 81 percent to $103 million.

Gross margin rose to 56.1 percent from 53.4 percent, mainly due to fewer markdowns at its dressbarn and Catherines stores.

(Reporting by Chris Peters in Bangalore; Editing by Richard Chang)