Panera's 4th-Q profit up 17%

ST. LOUIS Panera Bread Co. reported a 17-percent jump in fourth-quarter profit from a year earlier on a 34.4-percent surge in revenues.

The company, which operates or franchises about 1,027 namesake bakery-cafes, earned $18.9 million, or 59 cents per share, during the quarter ended Dec. 26, compared with earnings of $16.2 million, or 51 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Panera's revenues totaled $232.9 million, driven by a 2-percent systemwide same-store sales increase and the opening or 52 bakery-cafes, including 26 corporate units.

The company's latest-quarter earnings included a one-time, 3-cents-per-share charge for the company's $21.1 million purchase of a majority stake in Paradise Bakery & Cafe, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based operator of about 45 bakery-cafes. The company also said the chain's introduction of menu items for the evening daypart hurt margins in the fourth quarter.

Panera changed its reporting schedule in fiscal 2006 so that each quarter comprises 13 weeks, versus the company's former reporting schedule that comprised of a 16-week first quarter and 12-week second, third and fourth quarters. On a consistent reporting schedule, Panera said fiscal fourth quarter net income would have increased 8 percent from a year earlier on a revenue gain of 28.4 percent.