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NEW YORK CITY-With a solid balance sheet and an ambitious expansion plan, handbag and accessory retailer Coach Inc. is set to conquer the world.

The New York-headquartered firm, which recently ended its first fiscal quarter of 2006 with $539 million in cash and marketable securities on its balance sheet, said it is poised for a major expansion that will add 25 new stores annually to its US operations and 10 outlets in Japan during the next few years while expanding its influence in Canada and Asia.

And the upscale leather handbag and accessory maker, with more than 300 stores in the United States and more than 100 Coach outlets in Canada and Asia, isn’t done yet. Coach is planning to expand to eight new markets in the United States this year and add its first flagship store on Rodeo Drive, which should generate about $7 million in sales in its first year of operation. The company also operates about 85 factory stores and plans to open between three and five new factory store locations during fiscal 2006.

Michael Devine III, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the firm, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer and Retail Conference on Friday, said that the company, a leader in the accessories market with about 23% of sales in the US and an 8% share in Japan, plans to double its sales over the next four to five years, “with an even greater level of profitability.”

For the second quarter of fiscal 2006 alone, Devine said, the company expects net sales to grow at least 23% to about $2.1 billion with per share earnings expected to rise to at least 28 cents to $1.28 per share before option expenses. Devine said Coach should achieve that goal through increases in both distribution and productivity.

Sold worldwide through Coach stores, department stores and specialty retailers along with its catalogue and website, the company has routinely achieved both top-line and bottom-line growth since 2000 when it issued its first public offering.

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