WWD.com/globe-news/specialty-stores/l-brands-to-expand-in-uk-middle-east-7520381/

L Brands Inc. plans to more than double its Victoria’s Secret unit count in the U.K. and at least triple its stores in the Middle East in 2014.

In a conference call Thursday to discuss fourth-quarter results released late Wednesday, the company said its flagship on Bond Street in London was performing well and would be expanded.

Martin Waters, president of international for the company, formerly known as Limited Brands, said the firm remained “very pleased” with the Bond Street location, opened in 2012, and had acquired the lease for an adjacent property that would allow for the flagship’s expansion later this year. Including Bond Street, there are five Victoria’s Secret stores in the U.K., all of them featuring Pink assortments, and all but the flagship located in malls.

“The four mall locations, three of which we opened in 2013, all continue to perform well, and we’ll open another six stores in the U.K. this year, continuing to build out our footprint,” said Waters.

There are currently four stores in the Middle East operated through a partnership. “We continue to be [pleased] with the results, and will open another eight to 10 stores this year in that region,” he added.

Including Bath & Body Works and La Senza, L Brands ended 2013 with 750 international stores. After opening between 137 and 161 stores and closing between 38 and 43, the firm expects to end the year with between 844 and 873 units outside the U.S. La Senza will see its footprint shrink, with nine closures in Canada and no openings, reducing its count to 148 from 157. In other markets, between 25 and 30 closures, offset by between eight and 10 openings, will cut its portfolio to between 309 and 316 units from 331 at the end of 2013.

“The Victoria’s Secret Canada business has grown rapidly,” Waters said. “It is now about the same size as La Senza in Canada.”

L Brands’ net income for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 1 rose 19 percent to $489.6 million, or $1.65 a diluted share, 3 cents better than analysts, on average, expected. Net sales slipped 1 percent to $3.82 billion while comparable sales rose 1 percent.

The company said it expects 2014 earnings per share of between $3 and $3.20 a diluted share, versus $3.05 in 2013, with comps up in the low-single digits and gross margin down slightly from 41.1 percent of sales last year. Sales last year rose 3 percent to $10.77 billion.