NEW YORK -- The struggle by R.H. Macy & Co. to remain independent might have gotten a boost Tuesday.

In announcing results for its third quarter ending April 30, Macy's reported that it was outperforming its competitors in its markets and hoped to provide "considerable" value to its creditors.

Those are two key areas that will be studied by creditors in determining whether to back an independent Macy's reorganization plan or the plan expected to be filed by Federated Department Stores. Federated is looking to force a merger of the two retailers.

Continuing to wield its expense-cutting scalpel, Macy's reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased 31.7 percent in the quarter, to $34.9 million from $26.5 million last year.

The company attributed the increase, in large part, to expense cutting that helped Macy's exceed its plan by nearly 30 percent, or about $10 million, in the quarter.

The retailer, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in January 1992, said it had met or exceeded its plan for EBITDA in 16 of the last 17 months.

Macy's cited exceptionally strong business in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and areas in Southern California that had been affected by the January 1994 earthquake.

In a statement, Myron E. Ullman, chairman and chief executive, said Macy's was outperforming its competitors and hoped to give "considerable value to [Macy's] creditors."

"In addition to our success in reducing expenses, our merchandising and allocation initiatives are enabling us to achieve comparable-store sales increases that are higher than competitors in our markets," Ullman said in the statement.

One analyst, while admitting that the third-quarter numbers looked good, said Macy's was not out of the woods yet.

"While the comparable-store sales numbers were up, Macy's was going against a weak year-ago period," said the analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Plus, much of the EBITDA gain came through cost cutting and not through high-margin sales increases," he added.

Total sales in the quarter were flat against last year at $1.3 billion. Adjusted comparable-store sales, reflecting stores closed in 1993 and shuttered by the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake and the restructuring of Macy's electronics business, were up 6 percent in the period.In the nine months, Macy's reported an EBITDA of $304 million, up 68 percent, or $123 million, from the $81 million EBITDA a year earlier. During the nine-month period, expenses were cut by $107 million and cost-of-goods-sold declined by $70 million.

Macy's operating loss in the quarter totaled $53.1 million, even with the year-earlier operating loss of $53.7 million. After special items, Macy's reported a net loss of $157.3 million in the quarter. Last year, it posted a net loss of $228 million.

At the end of the quarter, Macy's reported a total liquidity position of $481 million, including $13.9 million cash and $467 million available on its $550 million DIP credit facility.

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