Panera net, sales climb 15% in Q3

by Eric Schroeder
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ST. LOUIS — Net income at Panera Bread Co. in the third quarter ended Sept. 23 totaled $13,740,000, equal to 46c per share on the common stock, up 15% from $11,943,000, or 38c per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales were $315,195,000, up 15% from $273,213,000.

For the quarter, company-owned bakery-cafe sales were up 3% and franchise-operated bakery-cafe sales were up 3.5%.

Panera said its third-quarter operating profit rose 41% and operating margin increased 130 basis points driven by improvement in its bakery cafe margin of 80 basis points.

During the third quarter the company opened 24 new bakery-cafes systemwide, bringing the total number of bakery-cafes in operation to 1,294.

For the nine months ended Sept. 23, Panera posted net income of $41,887,000, or $1.40 per share, up from $39,622,000, or $1.25 per share. Sales were $941,041,000, up 23% from $765,847,000.

Looking ahead, Panera reaffirmed its earnings per share target for the fourth quarter of 2008 at 82c to 86c per share, which compared with e.p.s. of 56c per share in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007. Panera said it expects transaction growth in the fourth quarter to fall 4% to 2% because of "a very fragile consumer environment."

Panera also set its initial target for fiscal 2009 e.p.s. at $2.55 to $2.71. If realized, it would represent an increase of 15% to 22% in year-over-year e.p.s., Panera said.

"Given the extraordinary volatility in our economy, it is increasingly difficult at this time to project fiscal 2009 earnings," the company said. "However, the company is comfortable setting targets at this level, as many of its cost inputs are already locked in and clearly understood."

Panera said it already has bought all its requirements for wheat for fiscal 2009 at an all-in cost of $9.50 per bu, consisting of a futures cost of approximately $8.50 per bu and basis cost of approximately $1 per bu.

The company expects to open 80 to 90 units in fiscal 2009.

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