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Morton's 4th-Q profit jumps to $5.6M

CHICAGO Morton's Restaurant Group Inc., owner and operator of 74 namesake steakhouses and four additional Italian restaurants, swung to a fourth-quarter profit of $5.6 million, or 33 cents per share, from a net loss of $3.8 million, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenues for the latest quarter, ended Dec. 31, increased 8.7 percent to $90.9 million. Same-store sales increased 6.7 percent at Morton's units and fell 2.7 percent at the Italian Bertolini's brand, the company reported.

Morton's credited its "highly popular" Bar 12-21 - a branded bar area that features a "Bar Bites" and liquor menu - for helping to drive sales. The company will expand Bar 12-21 from its current 20 locations to an additional 15-plus units this year.

Adjusting for one-time charges related to the company's February 2006 initial public offering, the separation agreement with former chief executive Allen Bernstein and other items, Morton's year-to-year, fourth-quarter profit increased 9.4 percent to $5.8 million, or 34 cents per share, from earnings of $5.3 million, or 31 cents per share, a year earlier, the company reported.

For the full year, Morton's booked a net loss of $13.6 million, or 84 cents per share, versus a net loss of $4.2 million, or 42 cents per share a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, Morton's earned $14 million, or 82 cents per share, for fiscal 2006, compared to pro forma profit of $11.6 million, or 68 cents per share, for fiscal 2005. Revenues in fiscal 2006 rose 7.1 percent to $322 million.

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