Athletic apparel maker Russell Corporation on Thursday posted fiscal 2002 second quarter earnings of 20 cents per share before extraordinary charges for debt refinancing, which beat city expectations of 15 cents per share.

The Atlanta-based company reported a net loss of $6.1 million, or 19 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $11.6m, or 36 cents per share, in 2001 after it was hit by an after-tax charge associated with the early retirement of debt of $12.6m, or 39 cents per share.

Russell added that sales for the quarter were flat at $253.1 million and it sees full-year sales in the range of $1.18 billion to $1.22bn versus $1.16bn in 2001.

"We are pleased to have exceeded analysts' EPS expectations, especially in this challenging economic environment," said Jack Ward, chairman and CEO. "Our second quarter results exceeded last year's EPS, before restructuring in the 2001 second quarter, by 33 per cent reflecting the success of our Six-Point Profit Growth Plan."

He added: "We continue to forecast a strong second half in 2002. We expect sales for the second half of the year to be up 7-12 per cent based on new and expanded programs such as a national expansion of men's and boys' fleece at JC Penney and a national men's fleece program at Sam's Club."

"Given the strong forecasted sales growth for second half of 2002 plus the benefits from our cost saving initiatives, we expect earnings per share for the second half of the year to be up over 25% versus last year's second half EPS before restructuring."

Separately on Thursday, Russell announced the appointment of Martie Edmunds Zakas as its new vice president and treasurer.

Zakas, who joined Russell last month from Equifax Inc, will be based in Atlanta and report to Robert Martin, senior vice president and chief financial officer.

"Martie has been consulting with Russell since September 2001 and played a major role in developing our recently announced new capital structure," said Martin.

"She has a strong background in corporate finance and financial communication that will be beneficial as we grow our businesses and our company."