Penney's 4Q Losses Are Lower Than Expected

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J.C. Penney Co., Plano, TX, reported smaller-than-anticipated operating losses in the fourth quarter, according to figures released this week.

The retailer reported an operating loss of 3 cents a share in the quarter that ended Jan. 27, compared with earlier projections of 5 cents a share. After a pretax charge of $275 million -- or 68 cents a share -- Penney had a net loss of $284 million, or $1.11 a share. Sales for the quarter fell to $9.75 billion from $9.83 billion a year ago.

Penney's catalog sales also took a hit with a reported 5.8 percent decrease from the prior year's period. At its Eckerd drugstore unit, operating profit for the fourth quarter was $53 million before the effect of $43 million in incremental inventory markdowns, compared with operating profit of $74 million in the year-ago period. Same-store drugstore sales rose 8.1 percent, led by a 14.4 percent increase in pharmacy sales. Comparable store front-end sales, which exclude pharmacy sales, declined 1.6 percent.

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