Brady Corp. (NYSE:BRC) said Friday that its better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings also improved from a year ago, driven by higher global demand and new acquisitions.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company posted net income of $21.6 million, or 41 cents a share, up 12.4% from $19.2 million, or 36 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding special items, earnings were 49 cents a share, marginally better than 48 cents predicted on average by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue for the maker of labels, signs and safety devices was $322.9 million, up 12.4% from $287.2 million in the same quarter last year, though narrowly missing the Street’s view of $323.28 million.

Sales were boosted by 10.7% organic growth in all regions, with a 14.7% improvement in the Americas and 9.6% in Europe, as well as positive impacts from acquisitions.

Full-year earnings improved significantly from the prior period, up 16.9% to $82 million, or $1.76 a share.

“Brady had a strong fourth quarter and finished the year on a positive note,” said Brady CEO Frank M. Jaehnert. “These strong financial results were due to our continued focus on cost controls, as well as execution of our growth strategies including launching several new products.”

The company upped its annual dividend for the 25th consecutive year to 72 cents a share, to be paid on October 29 to shareholders of record on October 8.

For the fiscal 2011 full year, the company said it expects the global economy to slowly improve, anticipating earnings per share in the range of $1.95 and $2.15 a share.