Retail conglomerate Limited Brands ( LTD) posted an increase in second-quarter earnings Thursday -- easily beating the consensus estimate -- on a 10% jump in total sales. In addition, the company backed analysts' third-quarter consensus estimate and upped its full-year forecast, given the strength in the latest quarter. But the retailer also noted that August apparel sales have been below plan and said overall same-store sales are so far weaker-than-expected in the month. Columbus, Ohio-based Limited earned $148 million, or 31 cents a share, in the quarter ended July 31, compared with $102 million, or 19 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. On an adjusted basis, earnings in the most recent quarter were $137.3 million, or 29 cents a share, the company said. Adjusted results exclude a pre-tax gain of 2 cents a share from the company's sale of its remaining interest in Galyan's Trading ( GLYN). The operator of Express, Express Men, Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works and Henri Bendel stores had sales in the latest quarter of $2.21 billion, up from $2.01 last year. Same-store sales increased 9%. Analysts were calling for a profit of 25 cents a share on sales of $2.187 billion in the quarter. Shares of Limited were rising 35 cents, or 1.7%, at $20.60 in Thursday premarket trading, approaching their 52-week intraday high of $21.65 reached on April 27. Limited said it is comfortable with the First Call consensus for 6 cents a share in the third quarter. That would compare with a profit of 4 cents a share in the third quarter last year. Yet, the company said August same-store sales are below plan and could be up in the low single digits due to weaker apparel sales. August same-store sales will be released in early September.
The company remained upbeat, however. Said Chief Executive Leslie Wexner: "Despite severe weather and record energy prices that have impacted the general retail environment in the last few months, we remain confident in our ability to deliver earnings growth in the fall season." Looking to the full year, the retailer increased its EPS guidance to $1.30 to $1.35. The Wall Street consensus is for earnings of $1.30 a share. Limited also announced a $250 million share repurchase program and said it finished a previous $100 million share repurchase program as of Wednesday. It repurchased 4.7 million shares for $90.5 million. Lastly, the company declared its regular quarterly dividend of 12 cents a share. It will be paid to shareholders on Sept. 14.