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Execution of Bridge Plan improves JCPenney cash flow metrics
Feb '09
J. C. Penney Company Inc reported 2008 fourth quarter operating income of $389 million and earnings from continuing operations of $0.94 per share, compared to recent guidance for earnings to be in a range of $0.90 to $0.93 per share. For the full year, operating income was $1,135 million, or 6.1 percent of sales, and earnings from continuing operations were $2.54 per share. Net income for this year's fourth quarter and full year, including the impact of discontinued operations, was $0.95 and $2.57 per share, respectively.

The Company maintained its strong financial condition in 2008, with the flexibility to continue to execute its Bridge Plan initiatives. The cash flow contribution generated by cash flow from operating activities less capital expenditures, net of proceeds from the sale of assets, and dividends was approximately $21 million.

This represents a $163 million improvement over 2007 results despite a significantly weaker operating environment in 2008. As of Jan. 31, 2009, the Company had cash and cash equivalents of $2.4 billion and long-term debt of $3.5 billion. Merchandise inventories totaled $3.3 billion and were about 13.5 percent lower than last year on a comparable store basis. Capital expenditures were approximately $970 million in 2008, moderately lower than the Company's $1.0 billion plan.

"Effectively executing our Bridge Plan enabled JCPenney to maintain a strong financial position and improve our cash flow metrics, despite the sharp deterioration of consumer spending over the course of 2008," said Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III, chairman and chief executive officer.

"Throughout the year, we took steps to significantly reduce our inventories and operating expenses in order to withstand the impact of the economic conditions. At the same time, we stepped up the style we offer and focused on effectively communicating the newness, excitement and value in our merchandise, as well as engaging and enabling our Associates to provide a rewarding shopping experience to our customers. Looking ahead, we are dedicated to remaining one of the best capitalized retailers and continuing to show our customers why they should choose JCPenney above all others."

Operating Performance:
Total sales in the fourth quarter decreased 9.8 percent compared to last year, while comparable store sales decreased 10.8 percent. The strongest merchandise results were in women's apparel and family shoes and, geographically, the best performance was in the southwest region of the country. The weakest results were in fine jewelry and in the southeast region.

For the quarter, operating income as a percent of sales was 6.8 percent. Gross margin declined 160 basis points to 34.6 percent of sales reflecting pressure from a weak sales environment and increased promotional levels during the holiday selling season. SG&A expenses were well-managed in the quarter, and were essentially flat on a dollar basis to last year's fourth quarter.

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