Upscale women's clothing producer Marisa Christina Inc on Monday posted a sharp rise in fourth quarter and full year net profit despite sluggish sales.

The New York-based firm posted a quarterly net profit of $6.5 million versus $75,000 in the year-ago period and said full year net profit soared to $7.6m from $600,000 in 2001 as it was boosted by the $6.3m reinstatement of income tax benefits.

Net sales for the quarter fell almost 13 per cent to $6.9m from $8m while 2002 net sales plunged 21 per cent to $27m from $34.1m in 2001 with the "decline in net sales for both periods primarily related to the discontinuation of an unprofitable label and a general downturn in the economy".

Chairman Michael Lerner commented: "We are very pleased with our year end results. Our increases in operating earnings and gross profit percentage, as well as the reduction in our operating expenses, have us well positioned for future growth.

"Our strong balance sheet also puts us in an enviable position going forward. In 2003 our major focus will be on building profitable volume. We see our challenge as growing the top line while always being watchful that top line volume translates to bottom line profit."

It added it had also received a Nasdaq panel determination notice that its shares will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq National Market, as a result of its compliance with the shareholders' equity requirement.