Limited Brands bares big gains

From Times Wire Reports

Limited Brands Inc., the owner of the Victoria's Secret lingerie chain, said first-quarter profit rose 85% and forecast higher annual earnings than it previously projected.

Net income rose to $97.8 million, or 28 cents a share, from $52.9 million, or 13 cents, a year earlier, Limited Brands said. Profit excluding a gain from the sale of a joint venture exceeded analysts' estimates.

Sales for the three months ended May 3 dropped 17% to $1.93 billion from a year earlier, before the retailer sold its Express and Limited chains.

Sales at stores open at least a year decreased at both Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, which sells shampoo and lotion. Limited Brands has tried to raise profit margins by slashing inventory, decreasing discounts and selling the new BioFit and Dream Angels bras at full price.

Limited Brands, based in Columbus, Ohio, rose 69 cents, or 3.8%, to $19 after the earnings release. Earlier, the shares lost 40 cents in regular trading to close at $18.31.

Limited Brands forecast full-year profit of $1.38 to $1.58 a share, excluding the one-time items in the first quarter. In February, the company forecast profit of $1.35 to $1.55 a share.

The company said second-quarter profit would be 16 cents to 20 cents a share. Analysts, on average, expect 18 cents.

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