updated 11/16/2006 8:31:34 AM ET 2006-11-16T13:31:34

Sears Holdings Corp., the nation’s third-largest retailer, said Thursday its third-quarter profits more than tripled, boosted by investment income that more than offset a continuing sales slide.

The parent of Kmart and Sears, Roebuck and Co. said same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, fell 3 percent, reflecting increased competition and fewer transactions.

Earnings for the July-through-September period were $196 million, or $1.27 per share, up from $58 million, or 35 cents per share, a year earlier.

Results included $101 million, or 42 cents per share, of income from the company’s investment of a portion of its surplus cash. They also included a tax gain of $6 million, or 4 cents a share, and restructuring charges of $4 million, or 2 cents per share.

Revenues dropped to $11.9 billion from $12.2 billion. Same-store sales, a closely watched gauge of retailers’ success, declined 4.8 percent at Sears stores and 0.7 percent at Kmart.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were forecasting earnings of 98 cents on revenue of $11.8 billion.

Sears Holdings owns about 3,800 full-line and specialty retail stores in the United States and Canada.

Shares in the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company are up 55 percent this year in a reflection of Wall Street’s belief in Chairman Edward Lampert to make the company more profitable.

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