Department store chain J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) on Friday reported a loss for the third quarter that narrowed from last year, driven by higher sales and improved margins. Adjusted loss per share for the quarter was narrower than analysts' expectations and revenues beat their estimates.

J.C. Penney's improved results come as it strives to improve its growth trajectory. The company has been revamping stores, cutting costs and refurbishing its merchandise assortment to woo customers to its outlets, and has also focused on online sales.

Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney's third-quarter net loss was 137 million dollar or 0.45 dollar per share, narrower than loss of 188 million dollar or 0.62 dollar per share in the same period last year. Excluding items, adjusted loss for the quarter was 0.47 dollar per share, compared to loss of 0.77 dollar per share in the prior-year period.

On average, 14 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to report loss of 0.55 dollar per share for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

Net sales for the quarter rose 4.8 percent to 2.90 billion dollar from 2.76 billion dollar in the year-ago period. Analysts were looking for sales of 2.88 billion dollar for the quarter.

Same store sales for the quarter rose 6.4 percent. For the quarter, Men's, Home, Footwear, Handbags and Sephora were the top performing merchandise divisions, J.C. Penney said.

Gross margin expanded 70 basis points from last year to 37.3 percent of sales, driven by improvements in clearance and promotional selling margins as well as supply chain productivity. SG&A expenses, as a percentage of sales, were down 300 basis points from last year. The savings were primarily driven by lower store controllable costs, advertising and improved private label credit card revenue.

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, the company said it was well positioned to compete effectively during the key holiday shopping period. For fiscal 2015, J.C. Penney reiterated its outlook for same-store sales to increase 4 to 5 percent and gross margin to improve 100 to 150 basis points.

The company now forecasts full-year adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization or EBITDA of about 645 million dollar. Earlier, the company forecast EBITDA of 620 million dollar. (DPA)


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