L Brands raises 4Q profit guidance on strong holiday season

IndustriesAssociated Press

L Brands Inc., the parent of Victoria's Secret, raised its fourth-quarter profit outlook that covers the holiday shopping season, boosted by strong January sales.

The Columbus, Ohio-based company, which also operates Bath & Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel, said that a key revenue metric surged 7 percent in January. That beat estimates for 1.9 percent growth, according to Thomson Reuters. It also said it was increasing its dividend and announced a share repurchase program.

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Shares of L Brands surged 6 percent, or $5.22, to $91.73 in afternoon trading.

The company has distinguished itself as a strong performer in the retail industry, which is still facing declining mall traffic and a cautious consumer.

L Brands' latest results show that its shoppers have an appetite for lingerie, fragrance and other items it sells.

Net sales for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, were $4.07 billion, an increase of 7 percent from $3.82 billion a year earlier. Revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 6 percent for the quarter. The metric is a key indicator of retailer's health.

Most retailers' fiscal year ends in January or early February to include the pre-Christmas and post-Christmas business.

L Brands said that it now expects fourth-quarter profit between $1.78 to $1.80 per share, above its previous guidance of $1.61 to $1.71 per share. Analysts expect $1.77 per share, according to FactSet. The retailer will report final results on Feb. 26.

The company said it was increasing its annual dividend to $2.00 per share from $1.36. In addition, L Brands announced a special dividend of $2 per share. The company will pay both its quarterly dividend of 50 cents and the special $2 dividend on March 6 to shareholders of record Feb. 20.

L Brands also said that it has authorized a new $250 million share repurchase program, which includes the remaining $91 million outstanding under the previous program. The company repurchased $84 million of stock in 2014.