Jones Apparel Group, which last month put itself up for sale, on Wednesday said first quarter profit dropped 70 per cent on the sale of the Polo Jeans business.

In April, Jones sold the Polo Jeans licence back to Polo Ralph Lauren and said it would use the proceeds to explore strategic options, including acquisitions and share repurchases.

Excluding the sales of the jeans business and other items, earnings beat expectations, sending its shares up 2.6 per cent to $34.94 in late morning trade.

Jones, which is in the midst of a corporate restructuring, owns brands such as Jones New York and Anne Klein and operates retailers Nine West and Barneys New York.

First round bidding for the $5bn company is drawing to a close with lead contenders said to be private equity players, including Cerberus Capital Management, Bain Capital and Texas Pacific Group, Women’s Wear Daily reported.

Net income fell to $25.8m, or 22 cents a share, from $87m, or 71 cents a share, a year ago. Stripping out the loss from the sale of the Polo Jeans business, severance costs and a change in accounting methods, adjusted earnings per share were 66 cents. On that basis, the company beat analysts’ expectations of 53 cents a share.

Net sales slipped to $1.2bn from $1.34 a year ago.

Sales from stores open at least a year - a key measure of a retailer’s performance known as same-store sales - rose 0.9 per cent at Jones’ footwear and read-to-wear stores and 6.6 per cent at Barneys, its luxury retailer.

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