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Ruth's Chris more than doubles its 4th-Q profit

HEATHROW Fla. Ruth's Chris Steak House Inc., operator or franchisor of more than 100 namesake restaurants, more than doubled its fourth-quarter profit from a year earlier on increased revenues and a one-time, gift-card-related income gain.

For the 14 weeks ended Dec. 31, the company earned $10.7 million, or 46 cents per share, compared with earnings of $4.3 million, or 18 cents per share, posted in the year-earlier, 13-week quarter.

Corporate revenues for the fiscal 2006 quarter increased 51.4 percent to $88 million. Same-store sales increased 7.4 percent at corporate restaurants on a comparable 13-week to 13-week basis, the company said.

Ruth's Chris booked $4 million in other income in this latest quarter, up from just $400,000 a year earlier, related to gift card "breakage," or gift card value purchased but not yet redeemed.

Adjusting for hurricane-related costs and proceeds and also for a change in the company's capital structure following its 2005 initial public offering, the company said net income for the latest quarter was $8.9 million, or 38 cents per share, versus $4.7 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

For the full year, on an as-reported basis, Ruth's Chris earned $23.8 million, or $1.02 per share, versus fiscal 2005 earnings of $10.9 million, or 39 cents per share. Fiscal 2006 revenues rose 28.2 percent to $271.5 million.

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