Eckerd, Mexico Operations Hamper JC Penney

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JC Penney Co. Inc. said yesterday that current accounting rules regarding Eckerd drugstores and Mexico department store operations being reported as discontinued operations contributed to a net loss for both the fourth quarter and fiscal year.

The Plano, TX, company's net loss for the 14 weeks ended Jan. 31 reached $1.07 billion compared with net income of $202 million in the 13 weeks ended Jan. 25, 2003. The recently concluded 53-week period included a net loss of $928 million while the 52 weeks ended Jan. 25, 2003, generated net income of $405 million.

However, income from continuing operations rose from $174 million to $253 million in the quarter, and from $285 million to $364 million for the year.

"We have concluded that a sale of Eckerd, at an appropriate price, is in the best interest of our customers, associates and shareholders, and will allow both JC Penney and Eckerd to maximize their potential," chairman/CEO Allen Questrom said in a statement. "We are in active negotiations with interested parties and continue to make progress on a sale transaction."

Comparable department store sales increased 3.2 percent on a 13-week basis. Catalog/Internet sales rose 8.7 percent on a 13-week basis.

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