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Direct Sales Boost True Religion’s Quarterly Profit

Shares of True Religion Apparel Inc. jumped Friday after the designer denim maker’s first-quarter profit far exceeded analysts’ estimates, largely due to more high-margin sales.

After the markets closed Thursday, the Vernon company reported first quarter net income of $9 million (36 cents per share) compared with $8.4 million (34 cents) a year earlier. Net sales rose more than 20 percent to $93.8 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters on average expected the company to report per-share profit of 26 cents on revenue of $85.4 million.

The company saw revenue fall 14 percent at its wholesale division that supplies outside retailers, but rise 38 percent at its consumer direct unit, which includes e-commerce operations and a chain of branded apparel boutiques. The company operates 96 stores in the United States and five overseas.

“We are off to a good start for 2011 as we exceeded our net sales and profitability targets for the first quarter of the year,” Chief Executive Jeffrey Lubell said in a statement. “We are aware of the challenges that face the overall retail market for premium denim and will continue to execute our plans to mitigate input cost pressures, protect our premium brand position and maintain strict inventory discipline.”

After earlier gaining 12 percent, True Religion’s stock fell back by midday Friday after Standpoint Research cut its recommendation from “buy” to “hold,” saying shares are currently fairly priced.

Shares closed up $2.43, or 8.7 percent, to $30.22 on the Nasdaq.

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