updated 8/18/2006 11:41:39 AM ET 2006-08-18T15:41:39

Sears Holding Corp., the nation's third-largest retailer, reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings on Thursday, due to improved margins at Kmart and domestic Sears operations.

Net income grew to $294 million, or $1.88 per share, from $161 million, or 98 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding a gain of $22 million, or 14 cents per share, on the settlement of Visa/MasterCard antitrust litigation, Sears earned $272 million, or $1.74 per share, in the latest period.

Total revenues declined to $12.8 billion from $13.2 billion last year.

The results beat Wall Street expectations for profit of $1.67 per share on sales of $12.51 billion, according to a poll by Thomson Financial.

"Sears Holdings' resolve to improve the profitability of this business remains strong and is borne out in the company's second-quarter results," said Aylwin Lewis, Sears Holdings' CEO and president. "While we are making progress, we must continue to focus on our customers, improve the shopability of our stores and continue to give our customers reasons to shop our stores more frequently," he added.

For the 13 weeks ended July 29, Sears revenue totaled $8.3 billion, down from $8.6 billion last year due to same-store sales declines that were partially offset by an increase in the total number of Sears Full-line stores in operation.

Total revenue at Kmart declined by $100 million year-over-year, primarily reflecting a reduction in the total number of Kmart stores in operation.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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