MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. -- Kohl's Corp. reported earnings before special items jumped 24.8 percent in the fourth quarter and 41.5 percent in the year ended Jan. 29.

After a $1.8 million charge for deferred financing costs, net income in the quarter rose 17 percent to $26.4 million, or 72 cents, from $22.5 million, or 64 cents, a year earlier.

In the quarter, Kohl's prepaid its $75 million real estate loan, signed an agreement to issue $60 million in unsecured senior notes and obtained bank commitments for a new revolving credit facility. Sales in the quarter advanced 19.5 percent to $457 million, from $382.4 million. Same-store sales rose 8.5 percent. In the year, earnings after a special charge of $1.8 million totaled $53.9 million, or $1.47. Last year, earnings totaled $26.6 million, or 81 cents, after a $2.1 million charge for amortization and a $10.6 million after-tax charge for incentive compensation. Last year, the company had a LIFO charge of $400,000 against a LIFO credit of $1.8 million.

Sales were up 19 percent to $1.3 billion from $1.1 billion. Same-store sales increased 8.3 percent. Dean Ramos, analyst at Dain Bosworth, said Kohl's earnings per share of $1.52, before the special item, were slightly higher than the Wall Street consensus of $1.49 per share. "They have the right strategy at the right time," Ramos noted, citing Kohl's advertising as "a promotionally driven store, where today's value-conscious consumer can find the products at sharp prices."

Ramos added, "Apparel should regain some of the strength lost in 1993, especially in the second half of the year, but Kohl's will face a challenge from competitors such as Carson Pirie Scott."

Ramos projects Kohl's will earn $1.78 for 1994, and $2.20 for 1995, but he thinks comparable-store sales growth will slow to 4 to 6 percent for this year. Kohl's opened 11 stores in 1993, ending the year with 90 units. It plans to open 18 units this year and 20 in 1995. The firm operates specialty department stores in eight upper Midwest states.

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