* Q4 ADJ EPS loss of $0.31 not expected by Wall St
* Q4 inventory down 23 percent from a year-ago
* Has so far identified five stores to close in 2009
LOS ANGELES, March 5 (Reuters) - Mall department store Dillard’s Inc (DDS.N) posted a surprising loss after charges on Thursday, and said it has identified five underperforming stores to close this year.
The net loss of $149.3 million, or $2.03 per share, for the quarter ended Jan. 31, compared with a net profit of $47.3 million, or 63 cents a share, a year earlier.
Results from the most recent quarter included after-tax noncash asset impairment and store closing charges of $1.69 per share and after-tax hurricane-related expenses 3 cents a share. According to Reuters Estimates, Dillard’s 31 cent loss per share, excluding items, compares with analysts’ call for a profit of 29 cents a share.
Net sales fell to $2.04 billion from $2.16 billion and the company said increased price markdowns hurt its gross margin.
Dillard’s, which competes with Macy’s (M.N), Kohl’s (KSS.N) and other department stores, closed 21 stores in 2008 and has been taking steps to cut costs amid increased scrutiny from activist investors.
Its cost-saving efforts “were not enough to offset the significant declines in sales and gross margin” during the quarter, Chief Executive William Dillard said in a statement.
Dillard’s shares fell 13.5 percent to $3 on the New York Stock Exchange after the company reported early Thursday that sales at established stores, or same-store sales, dropped a bigger-than-expected 13 percent in February. (Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; editing by Richard Chang)