Retail group Limited Brands said fourth-quarter earnings leapt 36%, boosted by the buoyant Victoria's Secret business, but said it wasn't enough to reverse a full-year earnings slide.

Fourth-quarter earnings were US$519.2m compared $382.5m last year, on sales of $3.5bn compared to $3.3bn a year ago. Quarterly same-store sales rose 3%.

Full-year earnings were $683.3m compared with $705.4m in financial 2004. 2005 sales increased 3% to $9.7bn from $9.4bn last year, but same-store sales slipped 1%.

Chief executive and chairman Leslie Wexner said: "We're pleased that we were able to exceed our initial fourth-quarter earnings guidance of $1.00 per share by five cents.

"Victoria's Secret, our largest brand, had a solid performance, driven by Pink and the Direct business.

"The apparel segment improved profitability, driven primarily by an improved performance at Express. Holiday results at Bath & Body Works did not meet our expectations."

In the first quarter of 2006, the company expects roughly flat earnings per share versus $0.16 per share in 2005.

For 2006, the company expects earnings per share of $1.40 to $1.50 versus 2005's $1.33 per share.