Clothing giant Jones Apparel Group Inc on Thursday received bankruptcy court approval for its $216.6 million acquisition of garment maker Kasper ASL Ltd.

The New York-based firm, which last week fought off competition from rival Kellwood Co at auction, said in a news release it plans to finance the deal with cash on hand and expects it to boost earnings from the second half of 2004.

Jones, whose brands include Nine West and Gloria Vanderbilt, added it expects to complete the deal for the maker of the Albert Nipon and Anne Klein labels by the end of this year, although it remains subject to regulatory approval and a reorganisation plan by Kasper.

Jones CEO, Peter Boneparth, said: "This acquisition is a perfect strategic fit for us and is consistent with our branded, multi-product, multi-channel diversification strategy. Kasper's well-known brands including Kasper, Anne Klein, Albert Nipon and LeSuit are wonderful additions to our existing brand portfolio.

CFO Wesley Card added: "Kasper's operating margins are now in the low double-digits, which we believe can be improved over time to a mid double-digit operating level. We anticipate this acquisition being accretive beginning in the second half of 2004."