J.C. Penney 4Q Profit Falls

Plano, Texas J.C. Penney said its fourth-quarter profit fell 10% due to a shorter quarter, but earnings beat Wall Street expectations as the company cut expenses.

The company said net income slipped to $430 million from $477 million a year ago.

Sales fell 4% to $6.39 billion from $6.66 billion in the year-ago period. Same-store sales fell 2.3%.

Penney said women's and children's clothing were the strongest selling categories, while fine jewelry and expensive home goods were the weakest. To offset the falling sales, it said it kept a close eye on expenses, with selling, general and administrative expenses decreasing 11.3%. For the year, net income fell 4% to $1.11 billion from $1.15 billion last year. Revenue was nearly flat at $19.86 billion, from $19.9 billion last year.

The company said it expects total sales to "increase slightly" for the first quarter and in the low single digits for the full year. It expects same-store sales to fall in the low single digits for both the first quarter and the year.

"We walked away from J.C. Penney's fourth-quarter with a continued 'good awkward feeling' after it posted better fourth-quarter results than planned and provided what we believe is both realistic and 'achievable' earnings per share guidance for 2008," said J.P. Morgan analyst Charles Grom in a client note on Thursday.

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