Limited, Intimate Brands Miss Dec. Sales Estimates, Warn on 4Q

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Limited

(LTD)

and its unit

Intimate Brands

(IBI)

spoke in unison today. Both sliced their fourth-quarter earnings estimates, citing a tough retail market in an "unforgiving economic environment."

Limited, whose shops include Express, Lerner New York and Lane Bryant, also said its same-store sales were flat for the month of December. Analysts on average polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

had expected same-store sales growth of 3.8%.

The Columbus, Ohio, retailer expects fourth-quarter earnings of 53 cents to 57 cents a share, down from earnings of 66 cents a share in the same period last year. The company also projected fiscal 2001 earnings of 95 cents to 99 cents a share, compared with 97 cents a share in 1999. These figures fall below analysts' consensus estimates, which called for fourth-quarter earnings of 70 cents a share and 2001 earnings of $1.13 a share.

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Limited, which said it was "generally unhappy with holiday sales," said sales in December totaled $1.89 billion, up from $1.85 billion in the year-ago period. The company also said it was "taking a cautious approach" to its inventory investments and plans to implement reduction initiatives.

Separately, but in a similar fashion, Limited's 84%-owned Intimate Brands division reported a wider-than-expected dip in December same-store sales, and also warned of lower-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.

The company, which operates the Victoria's Secret chain, said it now expects fourth-quarter earnings of 44 cents to 48 cents a share, compared with 55 cents a share last year. Twenty-seven analysts on First Call expected earnings of 59 cents a share.

Intimate said same-store sales in December fell 3%, sharply missing the First Call estimate that had projected 1.8% growth. December net sales totaled $1.1 billion, up slightly from $1.06 billion in the same period last year. Parroting its parent company, Intimate Brands said it was "unhappy with holiday results" and plans to implement "expense reduction initiatives."

Shares of Limited recently tumbled $1.19, or 6.6%, to $16.75, while Intimate Brands lost 44 cents, or 2.8%, to $15.31 in trading on the

New York Stock Exchange

.