Fashion retailer Limited Brands Inc.'s (LTD) third-quarter earnings fell 40 percent because of fewer one-time gains, the company reported Thursday.

The operator of Victoria's Secret (search) and Bath & Body Works (search) earned $78.3 million, or 16 cents a share, in the quarter ended Oct. 30, compared with $129.7 million, or 25 cents a share, in the third quarter of 2003.

Sales increased slightly to $1.89 billion from $1.85 billion a year ago.

Limited Brands' third-quarter results include a gain of 6 cents per share related to the initial public offering of New York & Company stock and a 3 cents per share tax benefit.

Excluding one-time items in both periods, the company made $49.7 million, or 10 cents a share, compared with $44.3 million, or 8 cents a share a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had predicted earnings of 10 cents a share for the latest quarter.

Sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, increased 1 percent in the third quarter and 6 percent for the first nine months of the year, compared with the same periods a year ago.

For the first nine months of the year, Limited Brands earned $323 million, or 66 cents a share, compared with $329 million, or 63 cents a share in the year-ago period. Sales increased to $6.1 billion from $5.7 billion.

The company also announced that it was comfortable with earnings estimates of $1.35 to $1.42 per share for the year and 85 cents to 92 cents per share for the fourth quarter.

Limited shares were down 33 cents to $26.77 in trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has been trading near its 52-week high of $27.89.

Limited Brands operates 3,972 stores across the country, employing about 10,000 workers.

The company's stores also include Express, Express Men's, Limited Stores, White Barn Candle Co. and Henri Bendel (search).