Footwear manufacturer Wolverine World Wide Inc on Friday posted a 6.3 per cent rise in third quarter profit as European acquisitions triggered higher sales and offset weakness in the US work boot market.

The Michigan-based company, which makes brands including Hugh Puppies, Merrell and Wolverine, reported net income of $15.3 million, or 37 cents a share in the quarter to September 7, compared to $14.4m, or 34 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Net sales and other operating income rose 17.7 per cent to $219.2m from $186.2m in 2001 but without the acquisition of the Merrell and CAT European businesses in the past year, sales climbed only 5.3 per cent.

Wolverine said it continues to see sales of $820m to $830m for the full-year and earnings of $1.12 to $1.15 a share, based on an increase in its order backlog, while for 2003 it sees for sales of $875m to $885m and earnings of $1.21 to $1.24 per share.

Commenting on the results, Wolverine president and CEO, Timothy O'Donovan, said: "I am extremely pleased with our continued growth and the number of our business units that contributed to our record third quarter sales results.

"Merrell led the way, posting a sales increase exceeding 20 per cent during the quarter. Solid upper-single to double-digit increases were also posted by our Bates, Harley-Davidson, Hush Puppies, CAT US and Wolverine Leather operations.

"These results were offset in part by continued softness in the US work boot market, which led to lower sales for both our Wolverine and Stanley work boot businesses."

He added: "We are starting the fourth quarter with a 23.5 per cent year-over-year gain in footwear order backlogs which reflects strong increases from both our ongoing and acquired businesses.

"We are most encouraged by the order increase for 2003 delivery, which is approximately $20m greater than a year ago, as retailers have responded positively to our Spring '03 product offerings."