Apparel manufacturer Kellwood Co on Tuesday reported a sharp rise in third quarter net profit as sluggish sales were offset by improved inventories.

The St Louis-based company posted a net profit of $21.1 million, or 82 cents per share, versus $13.9m, or 61 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Before costs for business and facilities realignments, net earnings were $23.3m, or 90 cents per share.

Kellwood added sales climbed five per cent year-on-year to $633m thanks to its acquisition of Gerber Childrenswear and said it expects fiscal 2002 earnings of $2.00 to $2.05 per share, before items, on sales of $2.2 billion.