February 24, 2010 / 10:20 PM / 10 years ago

Limited beats Street, bullish on February sales

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Limited Brands Inc LTD.N posted sharply higher profit on Wednesday that beat Wall Street estimates, and said its February same-store sales would likely be far better than expected.

The company’s shares rose more than 3 percent in after-hours trading.

Results in the holiday quarter ended January 30 were boosted by improved sales and the absence of an impairment charge that cut into profit year earlier.

The owner of the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & BodyWorks chains said net profit in its fourth quarter rose to $356.1 million, or $1.08 per share, from $16.1 million, or 5 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items that included a $215 million impairment charge, earnings were $1.01 compared with 68 cents in the year-ago period.

Analysts, on average, had been expecting adjusted earnings of 98 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Limited said that it expects to report a February same-store sales increase in the high single digit to low double digit range, versus its previous estimate of roughly flat.

The company, which operates nearly 3,000 stores has been dogged by weak mall traffic in the downturn, and shoppers have cut back on what they consider discretionary purchases.

But analysts have cited recent improvements in merchandise that have spurred spending by shoppers, along with controlled inventory and costs.

Revenue rose 2.4 percent to $3.06 billion, while same-store sales, a key gauge of retail strength, rose 1 percent.

In the year-ago holiday period, revenue fell 7.3 percent and same-store sales declined 10 percent.

The company said it expects first-quarter earnings per share to range between 5 cents per share and 10 cents per share.

It said it expects full-year earnings per share between $1.40 and $1.60.

Wall Street, on average, has been expecting full-year earnings of $1.63 per share.

Shares rose 3.3 percent to $22.26 after closing on the New York Stock Exchange at $21.54, up 3.2 percent.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; editing by Carol Bishopric

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