• 2009 net earnings grew US$1.1bn
  • Net earnings increased 45%
  • 200 Old Navy stores planned

Global clothing retailer Gap Inc has bolstered fourth quarter and full-year net earnings, thanks to improved margins, and is looking to expand its international network.

The company's fiscal 2009 net earnings grew to US$1.1bn from $967m last year. Net sales for the full-year fell to $14.20bn, compared with $14.53bn the prior year, and same-store sales decreased 3%.

Fiscal year 2009 gross margin increased 280 basis points to 40.3% though, the company reported.

For the fourth quarter, which ended 30 January 2010, the company’s net earnings increased 45% to $352m, with same-store sales up 2%. Gap's net sales increased 4% to $4.24bn in the fourth quarter, when gross margin increased 550 basis points to 39.5%.

"Led largely by our progress at Old Navy, we ended 2009 with a much-improved economic model and strong balance sheet," said Glenn Murphy, chairman and chief executive officer of Gap Inc.

"We’re now ready for our business to grow and move forward, as we aim to gain market share in North America and make a series of investments to bring our well-known brands to more customers around the world."

By the end of 2010, Gap plans to roll out its Old Navy store model to an extra 200 stores, and open its first Gap stores in China and Italy.

The company also said it wants to expand Banana Republic in Europe.

In its outlook, Gap said it expects diluted earnings per share of $1.70 to $1.75 for fiscal year 2010, from $1.34 in 2009.