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Finish Line reports big jump in sales, profit

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Shares of athletic retail specialist The Finish Line Inc. were soaring in after-hours trading Thursday after the company reported strong fourth-quarter sales and a growing pile of cash on its pristine balance sheet.

The Indianapolis-based company's fourth-quarter profit easily beat Wall Street expectations. Finish Line also reported a 10-percent rise in same-store sales, a key metric, and an impressive year-over-year drop in inventory.

The company reported a profit of $30.5 million, or $0.55 per diluted share, for the period ended Feb. 27. That compares with a loss of just under $1.4 million, or 3 cents per diluted share, during the same period a year ago. Analysts had been expecting a profit of 48 cents per share.

Excluding one-time items, Finish Line earned $33.3 million, or 61 cents per diluted share, in the fourth quarter, compared with $22.1 million or 44 cents per share for the same period in the previous year.

The company's shares were up more than 8 percent in after-hours trading, to $15.90, more than $1 above the previous 52-week high.

Sales rose almost 9 percent to $374.5 million in the fourth quarter compared with $344.1 million a year ago, as more customers visited the chain's 684 stores. And sales could be even stronger in the next quarter: The company said its same-store sales from February 28 through March 21 increased 15.5 percent compared with a 1.2-percent decline last year.

Finish Line said it ended the fiscal year with zero debt and $234.5 million in cash and cash equivalents, up from $115.9 million at the end of the fourth quarter a year ago. The company in the fourth quarter repurchased 1.4 million shares of its outstanding common stock for $15.9 million.

The company's inventories decreased more than 20 percent to $190.9 million, compared with $239.4 million at the end of February 2009.

“I’m proud of the excellent work our team did to achieve improved results in virtually all facets of our business,” Finish Line CEO Glenn Lyon said in a statement. “It is our view that shoppers will likely remain cautious, yet we are encouraged by our results and will stay on-strategy as we continue to focus on delivering value to our shareholders.”

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