March 10, 2010 / 9:30 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Gymboree Q4 profit beats Street; Q1 view strong

* Q4 EPS $1.11 vs est $1.10

* Sees Q1 EPS between $0.90 and $0.94

* Says to enter Australia, the Middle East

* Shares up 5 pct after market (Adds conference call details; updates share movement)

March 10 (Reuters) - Gymboree Corp’s GYMB.O quarterly profit topped market estimates by a penny, as well-managed discounts and variety in merchandise helped the children’s apparel retailer, and it forecast the first quarter largely above expectations.

Shares of the company went up to $48.56, or 5 percent, after the bell. They had closed at $46.29 Wednesday on Nasdaq.

The company, a pricier peer to Children’s Place Retail Stores (PLCE.O), also stepped up on its store growth plans, as it seeks to gain market share from rivals.

“Our greatest opportunity over the next five years is to aggressively grow our existing brands worldwide and drive operating margins as we leverage our infrastructure,” a company executive said on a conference call with analysts.

Gymboree is planning to enter Australian and the Middle East markets this year.

For the first quarter, the company expects to earn between 90 cents a share to 94 cents a share, while analysts, on average, were looking at 90 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Gymboree, which also rivals Gap Inc’s (GPS.N) Baby Gap line, has seen strong sales this season, and its Gymbucks coupon scheme, which lets customers redeem coupons for purchases, continues to be popular.

For the fourth quarter, Gymboree earned $33.2 million or $1.11 a share, while analysts were looking at earnings of $1.10 a share.

Sales were up 4 percent to $299.6 million.

Earlier in the day, rival Children’s Place posted a quarterly profit that was in line with market estimates. [ID:nSGE6280GW] (Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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