Feb 27 (Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc reported on Wednesday that sales at stores open at least a year fell 31.7 percent in the fourth quarter, steeper than the 27.8 percent drop analysts expected.
The poor results for the quarter, which included the holiday season, capped a rough first year for Penney's turnaround. The company's shares fell 4.9 percent in after hours trading.
Penney reported a net loss of $552 million, or $2.51 per share in the 14 weeks ended Feb. 2, compared with a loss of $87 million, or $0.41 per share for a 13-week period a year earlier.
Excluding restructuring charges and non cash pension plan expenses, the company posted an adjusted loss of $1.95 per share. It was not immediately clear how that compared with Wall Street estimates for a much smaller loss.
Gross margin was 23.8 percent of sales, down 6.4 percentage points from a year earlier. The company blamed lower-than-expected sales and a higher level of sales on clearance.
The department store chain had $930 million in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the quarter.