Department-store operator J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) said its third-quarter profit nearly doubled, beating Wall Street estimates.

Penney said Tuesday that it earned $149 million, or 50 cents per share, in the three months ending Oct. 30 compared to $80 million, or 27 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast earnings of 48 cents per share.

The 2004 results included charges of $47 million, or 10 cents per share, to pay for early debt retirement.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $4.46 billion from $4.33 billion a year earlier, nearly matching analysts' expectations of $4.47 billion.

Same-store sales (search), or sales at stores open at least a year, were up 6.2 percent at department stores during the period, said Penney, which also operates catalogues and an Internet store. Same-store sales are considered the best indicator of a retailer's health.

Chairman and chief executive Allen Questrom (search) said higher oil prices remain a concern, but he said the company is optimistic that the economy will keep improving.

The company said it expected fourth-quarter sales to decline by low-single digits from last year, citing the calendar, which included an extra week in the final quarter last year.

Fourth-quarter operating profit from continuing operations will be 95 cents to $1.05 per share, including one-time charges of 5 to 10 cents per share the company said. Analysts forecast earnings of $1.07 a share before one-time charges in the critical November-January quarter.

Penney said the fourth-quarter charges would be due mostly to management changes. A new CEO, Myron Ullman, begins Dec. 1, replacing Questrom, who is leaving after more than four years at Penney.

In the first nine months of its fiscal year, Penney said it earned $191 million, or 64 cents per share, compared to $141 million, or 45 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $12.35 billion from $11.69 billion.