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Tiffany Profit Rises 2%, Cuts Outlook

--Second-quarter earnings up 2% --Tiffany expects to be profitable in fourth quarter --Lower spending by European tourists weighs Tiffany & Co.'s (TIF) fiscal second-quarter earnings edged up 2%, as the New-York based seller of diamond rings and other high-end jewelry continued to struggle with weak sales amid a global economic slump. Tiffany did say, however, that after a soft third quarter, it expects to show a profit in the holiday fourth quarter. Tiffany shares are up 6.6% to $62.44 with the gain potentially having to do with the guidance Tiffany provided. The jeweler lowered its full-year outlook to $3.55 to $3.70 a share, from $3.70 to $3.80, with the reduced guidance coming in around the mid-point of the $3.63 analysts were expecting. Tiffany's worldwide same-store sales fell 3% in the second quarter, while the Americas posted a 5% drop, and Asia-Pacific and Europe both saw 7% same-store sales declines. "Not surprisingly, sales growth has been affected by economic weakness in a number of markets and by a very challenging prior-year comparison to a 30% increase in worldwide net sales," Chairman and Chief Executive Michael J. Kowalski said. "We think it is only prudent to maintain a cautious near-term outlook about global economic conditions and the effects on customer spending, with year-over-year growth comparisons in the next few months also being pressured by the strong increases we experienced last year," Mr. Kowalski said. Sales at Tiffany's New York flagship store declined 9%. The flagship store, along with other domestic stores, saw higher sales to Japanese and Chinese tourists that helped offset a decline in spending by European tourists. In the Americas, which includes the U.S., Latin America and Canada, total sales declined 1%, with an increase in the average price offset by a decline in volume. In the Asia-Pacific region, which includes China, total sales rose 1%, resulting from increased volume more than offsetting a decline in average price. Spending in China was "restrained," Investor Relations Chief Mark Aaron said on a conference call, but Tiffany remains "enthusiastic" about the country longer-term and opened two stores in the quarter. Global economic weakness has weighed on luxury retailers, like Tiffany. In a trend that began during the last holiday season, the jeweler has posted weakening margins, a sales slowdown in Asia and markedly weaker sales in the U.S. and Europe. Tiffany was also up against tough comparisons. In last year's second quarter, worldwide sales increased 30%, net earnings rose 33% and net earnings excluding nonrecurring costs rose 58%. For the quarter ended July 31, Tiffany reported a profit of $91.8 million, or 72 cents a share, up from $90 million, or 69 cents, a year earlier. The year-ago period included a 16 cent per-share reduction for one-time items related to the relocation of Tiffany's New York headquarters staff. Revenue rose 1.6% to $886.6 million. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters most recently projected earnings of 73 cents on revenue of $890.9 million. Gross margin narrowed to 56.3% from 59%, amid higher product acquisition costs and reduced sales leverage of fixed costs. In the Americas region, which represents slightly less than half of the total, sales fell 1% to $434 million. As of July 31, net inventories were up 21% to $2.2 billion. Last week, Signet Jewelers Ltd. (SIG) reported its fiscal second-quarter earnings rose 6.6% on strength at its mall-based Kay Jewelers segment and as U.S. sales got a boost from a promotional timing change for Mother's Day. Zale Corp. (ZLC) reports results Wednesday. Write to Anna Prior at anna.prior@dowjones.com and Karen Talley at Karen.Talley@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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