Earnings from continuing operations rose to $457 million, or $2 a share, for the fourth quarter, compared with $450 million, or $1.92 a share, a year earlier. Earnings were ahead of J.C. Penney's previous guidance for a profit of $1.94 a share and the $1.97 a share analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial predicted. The latest quarter included an extra week.
Sales gained 7% to nearly $6.6 billion for the quarter, in line with forecasts. J.C. Penney said total department store sales rose 4% on a 13-week basis, while sales at stores open at least a year rose 2.2%, helped by children's apparel, fine jewelry and family shoes.
The company said its income tax expense grew 51% to $271 million in the quarter from $179 million in the prior year.
The chain said gross margin improved 180 basis points to 38% of sales, reflecting benefits from strong private brand performance and better inventory management.
For the fiscal year, earnings grew 6% to $1.15 billion, or $4.96 a share, from $1.09 billion, or $4.26 a share, during the same period last year. Revenue rose 6% to $19.9 billion from $18.8 billion last year.
J.C. Penney, which has been working to convince shoppers that it has shed its dowdy image and become a stylish retailer stocked with fashionable merchandise, predicted a fiscal first-quarter profit 99 cents a share, below analysts' forecasts of $1.05 a share.
The retailer said it expects a full-year profit of $5.44 a share, while analysts anticipated a profit of $5.42 a share.
Fiscal first-quarter same-store sales are expected to rise in the mid-single digits, the company said.