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LNT slashes forecast

Clifton, NJ — With same-store pummeled by bad weather, a weak economy and now a war with Iraq, Linens 'n Things has hoisted a yellow caution flag warning Wall Street and investors that first-quarter profits will come in far short of expectations, falling as much as 60 percent from year-ago levels.

Driven by continued expansion, overall sales for the quarter ended April 5 grew y five percent, the retailer said, to $480 million from $457 million last year. But the gains were all from new stores opened, and the acid-test gauge of same-store sales fell by 3.2 percent.

Given the drop in same-store sales, the retailer said earnings are now expected to come in at four to five cents a share, down about 60 percent from 12 cents a share in the same period a year ago. Earlier, Linens 'n Things had forecast earnings in the range of 10 to 12 cents a share.

Taking a bite out of the bottom line, the retailer said, is the cash settlement paid to former president Steven Silverstein, who left the chain in March after less than two years on the job. Without the cash payout, earnings per share would have totaled seven to eight cents a share.

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