Shares of True Religion Apparel Inc. rose 6 percent Wednesday morning after the apparel company said its first-quarter profit rose nearly 16 percent and announced it would start paying a quarterly dividend.

The Vernon premium denim maker and retailer late Tuesday reported net income of $10.4 million (41 cents a share), compared with $9 million (36 cents) in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 14 percent to nearly $107 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters on average expected net income of 36 cents a share on revenue of $102 million.

True Religion operates 109 stores in the United States, and 18 stores in other countries. It has added 13 stores over the past year. Sales at its own stores and its online site rose nearly 23 percent to $65.5 million, with same-store sales up 13 percent. Wholesale revenue from other retailers rose 2.8 percent to $21.4 million. International sales rose 3.6 percent to $19.1 million.

“Our business continues to generate significant positive free cash flow even as we open new retail stores both in the U.S. and abroad and expand our wholesale presence outside the U.S.,” said Chief Executive Jeffrey Lubell in a statement. “We are confident that our growth strategies will continue to deliver value for our shareholders.”

The company's directors approved initiation of a quarterly dividend to 20 cents a share. The first dividend will be paid on May 29 to stockholders of record on May 15. The board also approved a stock repurchase program for up to $30 million worth of the company's common stock.

Shares were up $1.68, or 6 percent, to $29.56 in midday trading on the Nasdaq.

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