First Albany Ups AnnTaylor Estimates

Analyst Harry Ikenson says he's excited about a new product line-up, and continuing momentum at Loft stores

First Albany raised its estimates on AnnTaylor (ANN ).

Analyst Harry Ikenson says the second-quarter earnings per share beat his 40 cents estimate and met the 41 cents consensus. Earnings per share reflected strong improvement in gross margin and leverage in selling, general, and administrative expenses. Ikenson says second-quarter same-store sales, up 7% year over year, were driven by continued strength at Loft (comparisons rose 18%), and partly offset by results at Ann Taylor Stores (comparisons were up only 8%).

Ikenson says, while sales comparisons for Ann Taylor become more challenging in the second half, he's very excited by a new product lineup at Ann Taylor Stores and continued momentum at Loft. He raised the $1.82 fiscal 2005 (Jan.) earnings per share estimate to $1.83, and upped the $2.15 fiscal 2006 estimate to $2.16. He reiterated the buy rating with a $35 target.

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