An investment gain helped Limited Brands ( LTD) overcome declining comparable-store sales and nearly double its first-quarter earnings, the apparel dealer reported on Monday.

In its quarter ended May 3, Limited earned $97.5 million, or 19 cents a share; the company earned $49.8 million, or 9 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Overall sales at Limited increased 2% over the same period last year to $1.84 billion, but its same-store sales, which compare results at outlets open for more than one year, declined 1% in the quarter.

On the company's bottom line, those slow sales were outweighed by a $79.7 million gain related to a sale of about half of its interest in Alliance Data Systems ( ADS), which provides credit and marketing services. Excluding that gain and the taxes related to it, Limited would have earned $49.8 million, or 9 cents a share. Setting aside extraordinary gains and losses in the year-ago period, the retailer would have earned $76.9 million, or 14 cents a share.

On this basis, analysts were expecting Limited to earn 8 cents a share on $1.82 billion in sales, according to Thomson First Call.

The company said it is "comfortable" with Thomson First Call projections that it will earn 16 cents a share in its second quarter. Limited expects its full-year earnings to come in between 99 cents and $1.04 a share, compared with a 99 cents a share profit in fiscal year 2002.