Gap´s 4Q earnings down 40%

Gap Inc.'s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings fell 40% due to stretching margins. Company´s board approved $1 billion in additional share repurchases and has raised the annual dividend by 11% to 50 cents a share.

"In spite of 2011 earnings being below last year, we're pleased with the progress we made against our long-term strategic plan, including growing our online business and expanding internationally," said Chief Executive Glenn Murphy.

San Francisco-based retailer´s earnings have been sliding for the past year, although its bottom lines have been exceeding guidance lately after several key trend misses in recent years. The group, owner of the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic chains, expects to earn $1.75 to $1.80 a share in fiscal 2012, while analysts, on average, were expecting $1.79 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. As highlighted by Reuters, Gap had preannounced that sales fell 2 percent to $4.28 billion, while comparable store sales were down 4 percent.

Gap shares were trading down at $23.35 Thursday in late trade. They closed at $23.52 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, Sears´reported the decline of a once-iconic brand. The Hoffman Estates, Ill. company reported Thursday a net loss in the fourth quarter of $2.4 billion, or $22.47 a share, versus net income of $374 million, or $3.43 a share. Bloomberg News says the loss was Sears' largest since 2002. Revenue, which has dropped for more than a dozen straight quarters, fell to $12.48 billion. On an adjusted basis, profit was 54 cents. Wall Street analysts were expecting a profit of 54 cents on revenue of $12.44 billion.

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