(By Balachander) Ann Inc. (NYSE: ANN) shares gained 1.76 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday after the retailer of women apparel posted third-quarter results that beat market expectations on improved margins and it raised its forecast for 2012.
Ann earned $40.75 million or $0.84 per share for the three months ended Oct. 27, up from $32.28 million or $0.61 per share in the year-ago quarter.
Excluding a benefit of $0.08 related to the recognition of gift card and merchandise credit breakage, earnings per share were $0.76, topping market expectations by a penny.
Sales increased 8.6 percent to $612.5 million, beating consensus estimate of a rise of 7.50 percent. Comparable sales grew 5.5 percent. Ann delivered positive comp performance at both Ann Taylor and LOFT brands.
Gross margin expanded to 57.9 percent from 57.5 percent for the third quarter.
Looking ahead, Ann sees net sales of $625 million for the fourth quarter and $2.395 billion for the full year, up from prior view of $2.385 billion. Analysts expect sales of $629.4 million for the current quarter and $2.39 billion for the year.
The company expects gross margin of 51.0 percent for the fourth quarter and continues to expect gross margin of 55.0 percent for 2012.
ANN shares closed Tuesday's regular trading at $32.43. The stock has been trading in the 52-week range between $21.89 and $39.78.