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J.C. Penney's profit drops, outlook brightens

J.C. Penney Co. is reporting a 78 percent drop in its third-quarter earnings because of a big expense to fund its pension plan.
Image: Shoppers at a J.C. Penney store
J.C. Penney reported a 78 percent drop in its third-quarter earnings because of a big expense to fund its pension plan.Mark Lennihan / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

J.C. Penney Co. reported a 78 percent drop in its third-quarter earnings because of a big expense for its pension plan.

However, the department store retailer boosted its profit and sales outlook because it is selling more goods at regular price and seeing less clearance discounting, though sales are still weak.

The retailer, which is based in Plano, Texas, said Friday it earned $27 million, or 11 cents per share, for the period ended Oct. 31. That compares with $124 million, or 56 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

The third-quarter results included a non-cash pension plan expense of $73 million, or 19 cents per share. Excluding that, adjusted income from continuing operations was $72 million, or 30 cents per share.

Third-quarter results per share also reflect a 3-cent charge to write down the value of real estate.

Revenue was down 3.2 percent to $4.18 billion, from $4.32 billion a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 12 cents per share on revenue of $4.18 billion.

Sales at stores opened at least a year fell 4.6 percent in the quarter. This measure is considered a key indicator of a retailer's health.

For the fourth quarter, Penney forecasts sales at stores open at least a year to be down anywhere from 4 to 6 percent and for earnings per share to be in the range of 70 cents to 85 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect 82 cents per share for the fourth quarter.

Based on those forecasts, Penney has raised its full-year sales and profit outlook. For fiscal 2009, sales at stores opened at least a year are now expected to decline 6.5 percent to 7 percent, better than the earlier forecast for a 7 percent to 7.5 percent drop. Penney also said that it expects earnings per share to be in the range of 93 cents to $1.08 per share. That's up from its prior forecast for earnings to be in the range of 75 cents to 90 cents. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expects $1.05 per share.