Apparel maker Perry Ellis International Inc on Monday revealed it nearly tripled its fourth quarter net profit on the back of a big jump in sales driven by a strong performance of its Jantzen swimwear brand.

The Florida-based company posted a net profit of $2.8 million versus $954,000 in the year-ago period with sales up more than 51 per cent year-on-year to $79m from $52.2m.

For the full year, Perry reported a 64 per cent jump in net profit to $10.8m from $6.6m in 2002 with net sales up 10.2 per cent to $277m from $251.3m.

The company noted the quality of its licensing stream had grown due to the strength of its licensing partners and said it expects to earn between 85 cents a share and 90 cents a share in the first quarter, on sales of $90m to $100m.

It added operating income for the quarter increased 79.2 per cent to $8.6m from $4.8m with full-year operating income up 37.5 per cent to $33.4m versus $24.3m in 2002.

Chairman and CEO, George Feldenkreis, said: "Fiscal 2003 was a landmark year in our company's history. It is hallmarked by the continued strengthening of the Perry Ellis brand, our integration and execution of the Jantzen business, and the agreement to acquire Salant Corp to solidify our operating platform.

"We are pleased with the fourth quarter results. More importantly, we believe we will see our momentum continuing into the new year, despite a challenging market. "Not only have we grown due primarily to the Jantzen acquisition during the past year, but we have significantly improved our balance sheet.”

He added: "We remain focused on building our company and are convinced that the industry will come to be increasingly consolidated. We believe our strategy of being a highly diversified company with a strong mix of brands and distribution is very advantageous.

”We are looking forward to capitalising on the opportunities for growth this will provide as well as to creating synergies in our organisation."