Q3 2012 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 11/15/2012

Operator: Good morning. My name is Michelle, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Limited Brands' Third Quarter 2012 Earnings Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers' remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session.

I will now turn the call over to Ms. Amie Preston, Chief Investor Relations Officer for Limited Brands. Please go ahead.

Amie Preston - IR: Thanks Michelle. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our third quarter earnings conference call for the period ending Saturday, October 27, 2012.

As a matter of formality, I need to remind you that any forward-looking statements we may make today are subject to our Safe Harbor statements found in our SEC filings.

Our third quarter earnings release and related financial information, including any non-GAAP or adjusted financial reconciliation tables, are available on our website, Also available on our website is an investor presentation, which we will be referring to during this call. This call is being taped and can be replayed by dialing 1-866-NEWS-LTD. You can also listen to an audio replay from our website.

Stuart Burgdoerfer, EVP and CFO; Sharen Turney, CEO, Victoria's Secret; Nick Coe, CEO, Bath & Body Works; and Martin Waters, President of International are all joining us today. After our prepared comments, we will be available to take your questions for as long as time permits. So that we can speak with as many as possible, please limit yourself to one question. Also, just a reminder, that all of the results discussed on this call are adjusted results and exclude the one-time items that are described in our press release.

Thanks and now, I'll turn the call over to Stuart.

Stuart Burgdoerfer - EVP and CFO: Thanks, Amie and good morning, everyone. We reported adjusted third quarter earnings per share of $0.26 against last year's $0.25 per share or $0.22 per share excluding the earnings related to the sold third-party sourcing business which equates to an 18% increase in earnings per share.

To take you through the third quarter results as detailed on Page 4 of the presentation, comps increased 5% on top of 9% last year. Adjusting for the impact of the sourcing business sale, the gross margin rate increased by about 60 basis points driven by an increase in the merchandise margin rate and buying and occupancy leverage. The SG&A expense rate improved by about 20 basis points. The merchandise margin rate was up in both the Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works segments. Our total company merchandise margin rate was negatively impacted by about 50 basis points from an increase in mass sales to our international franchise businesses.

Turning to the balance sheet on Page 8, retail inventories per square foot at cost ended the quarter up 2% versus last year our inventories are clean and well positioned as we head into the fourth quarter. We repurchased 171,000 shares of stock in the third quarter for $8.4 million. At quarter end, we had 52.2 million remaining under our $500 million repurchase program. As noted in our release, our board has authorized a new $250 million share repurchase program.

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