AMES EARNINGS LEAP IN 4TH QUARTER

NEW YORK — A smooth absorption of former Hills and Caldor sites helped Ames Department Stores deliver robust fourth-quarter results.
Overall, net earnings for the discounter, based in Rocky Hill, Conn., surged to $94.9 million, or $3.19 a share, in the quarter, from $22.4 million, or 92 cents, reflecting a change in the accounting of layaway sales and certain tax benefits. About $63 million of layaway sales were shifted from the third quarter to the fourth in the latest period.
Excluding the impact of layaway sales and the special tax benefits, earnings rose 36 percent to $50.2 million, or $1.69 a share, from $36.9 million, or 1.51, a year ago.
Sales jumped 46.7 percent to $1.28 billion, reflecting the purchase of the 155-unit Hills Department Stores chain and 10 former Caldor sites. Comparable sales gained 3 percent. It now has 454 stores.
“We executed our growth strategy flawlessly, expanding our geographic presence while sustaining strong same-store sales in our core stores,” said Joseph Ettore, Ames chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “We are very pleased with our results for the quarter and the year, both of which exceeded expectations. In 1999 we clearly established a platform for continued growth and expansion.”
For the full year, earnings tumbled 64.4 percent to $17.1 million, or 62 cents, from $48.1 million, or $1.99, due to preopening expenses and Hills’ results prior to their reopening as Ames units. Excluding the Hills conversion costs, earnings gained 26.4 percent to $60.8 million, or $2.20.
Sales jumped 53.5 percent to $3.84 billion due to the acquired stores, while same-store sales increased 6.2 percent.

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