* Shares up as much as 4.5 pct at $94.00
* Sales of under $500, gold jewelry rise
* Q4 adj. profit $1.45/shr vs. est. $1.38/shr (Adds details, analyst comment)
By Sruthi Ramakrishnan
March 17 (Reuters) - Tiffany & Co’s higher-than-expected quarterly results suggested that the luxury retailer’s push in to higher-margin fashion jewelry and affordable products was helping it win back customers.
Shares of the luxury retailer, whose sales also beat estimates, rose to a 19-month high in afternoon trading on Friday.
Tiffany has been struggling to lift sales, particularly in the Americas - its biggest market - as shoppers spend lesser on accessories and shift to cheaper, chic brands.
The jeweler removed Chief Executive Frederic Cumenal last month and days later struck a surprise deal with activist investor Jana Partners to add three directors to its board.
Tiffany sold more fashion jewelry in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, driven by demand for gold jewelry and items from its “Tiffany T” collection. The company has been rapidly introducing new items in this category.
“The fashion category is where we have enjoyed the most relative success, so I think that speaks at least directionally of some success in appealing to millennials,” Tiffany’s Chairman and interim Chief Executive Michael Kowalski said on a conference call.
Sales of jewelry priced under $500 were also higher in the quarter. The company plans to increase its offerings in the category and is also banking on lifting “disappointing” e-commerce sales, Kowalski added.
“We are encouraged on solid fundamental momentum and believe TIF is making good strides,” Cowen & Co analyst Oliver Chen said in a client note.
Sales in Japan, which rose 15 percent to $185 million in the fourth quarter, were bolstered by the brand exposure Tiffany got through a popular television show last year, Kowalski said.
A strong yen also helped boost spending by Japanese tourists in other regions.
Chinese consumers spent more locally than as tourists, Kowalski added, leading to a 9 percent growth in Asia-Pacific sales to $284 million.
However, Tiffany’s Americas sales fell 3 percent to $587 million in the quarter ended Jan. 31, partly hurt by traffic disruptions at its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York due to its proximity to Trump Tower.
Net sales rose 1.3 percent to $1.23 billion, the second straight rise in two years.
Excluding items, the company earned $1.45 per share.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.38 per share and revenue of $1.22 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Jessica Kuruthukulangara and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D‘Couto)