Signet Jewelers Ltd., parent of Sterling Jewelers in Akron, hiked its quarterly dividend by 25 percent as it reported Thursday record fourth-quarter results that exceeded analysts’ expectations.

The share price for Signet Jewelers (NYSE: SIG) was up $3.73 — or 5.9 percent — on Thursday’s news. The per-share price reached $69.41 — a 52-week high — in intra-day trading before closing at $67. Shares are up 37 percent from a year ago.

Signet’s U.S. division, the Akron-headquartered Sterling, operates the Kay and Jared store chains and generates the vast majority of Signet’s sales.

Sterling, which employs more than 2,000 in the Akron area, is one of Summit County’s top 10 largest employers.

Mike Barnes, chairman of Signet, the largest specialty jeweler in this country and the United Kingdom, credited the company’s record results with continued spending on advertising in the United States, as well as offering finance programs to U.S. consumers.

“Our leadership in marketing and advertising continues to be an important driver of our U.S. sales,” Barnes said in a conference call with industry analysts, noting that the company launched eight new TV ads for the last holiday season.

Barnes told analysts that for the first time this past holiday season, Kay and Jared stores used in-store touch-screen devices to help sell products

Signet’s income for the fourth quarter rose to $171.8 million, or $2.12 per share. That’s up nearly 10 percent from $156.6 million, or $1.79 per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Analysts surveyed by financial research firm FactSet expected earnings of $2.09 per share, according to the Associated Press.

The fourth quarter ended Feb. 2.

Sales in the fourth-quarter increased to $1.51 billion, an increase of nearly 12 percent from $1.35 billion in the year-ago period. Analysts’ had forecast $1.49 billion in revenue, according to the Associated Press.

Sales were boosted by Signet’s $57 million purchase in November of the Ultra Stores chain of outlet-mall jewelry stores.

Same-store sales for the period ended Feb. 2 increased 3.5 percent compared to an increase of 6.9 percent in the quarter in the previous fiscal year. Online sales increased nearly 47 percent to $63.9 million.

Thursday’s earnings report from Signet included news that it was increasing its quarterly dividend to 15 cents per share.

For the current quarter, the company forecasts earnings between $1.07 and $1.12 per share. Analysts expect $1.12 per share, according to the Associated Press.

For the full fiscal year ended Feb. 2, net income increased by $35.5 million to $359.9 million, up 10.9 percent. Earnings per share increased by 62 cents to $4.35, up 16.6 percent.

Signet’s total sales for the fiscal year were $3.98 billion, up $234.2 million or 6.2 percent compared to $3.749 billion in the 52 weeks ended Jan. 28, 2012.

Same-store sales were up 3.3 percent compared to an increase of 9 percent in fiscal 2012.

Online sales were $129.8 million, up 40.6 percent from $92.3 million in fiscal 2012.

Signet’s Sterling, based on Ghent Road in Akron, has more than 1,300 stores nationwide.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.