April 5, 2011 / 6:30 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-Abercrombie shares soar on strong sales goal

* Sees FY 2012 EPS $4.75 vs $3.97 Street View

* Sets FY 2016 sales goal $7.5 bln

* Hollister shares in Europe “strong”

* Shares up 11.6 pct, highest levels since June 2008 (Adds analyst comments, updates shares, byline)

By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK, April 5 (Reuters) - Abercrombie & Fitch Co (ANF.N) forecast a strong profit next year and set an ambitious long term sales goal in anticipation of successful overseas growth, sending its shares up nearly 12 percent to their highest level since 2008.

The teen clothing chain told Wall Street analysts at its investor day on Tuesday, which was broadcast over the Internet, that it expects earnings of $4.75 per share for the fiscal year ending in January 2013, surpassing the average analyst forecast of $3.97 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Abercrombie shares were up $6.88 to $66.05 in afternoon trading on Tuesday, their highest level since June 30, 2008.

Standard & Poor’s analyst Marie Driscoll raised her price target on the stock to $75 from $66, saying she was “enthused” by Abercrombie’s profit forecast and its goal to have annual sales of $7.5 billion by its fiscal year ending in 2016, split evenly between its U.S. and international stores.

That would be more than double what Abercrombie reported in the fiscal year ended in January 2011.

The retailer, which operates more than 1,000 stores in its Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister chains, is relying on wide international expansion even as it closes weaker U.S. stores. As of March, 54 of its stores were located abroad, mostly in Canada and Britain.

    It said sales at its Hollister stores in Europe have been “strong.” It is planning 40 new international Hollister locations, which offer “surfer” clothing, both this year and next.

    The retailer is planning to open 10 Abercrombie & Fitch stores abroad this year and another 10 next year. It is set to open one on Paris’ Champs-Elysees next month.

    “The brand is clearly not striking out abroad, key for a identifiable American brand that is expanding,” said Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi.

    Abercrombie has consistently outperformed rivals such as American Eagle Outfitters (AEO.N) and Aeropostale ARO.N in terms of sales gains in the past year, as shoppers have moved back up to more expensive clothing.

    Sales at stores open at least a year rose 13 percent during the holiday quarter.

    The company said in February it planned to open its first Hollister stores in mainland China and Hong Kong, and Abercrombie & Fitch flagship stores in Paris, Madrid, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Dublin and Singapore. (Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Tim Dobbyn, Bernard Orr)

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