UPDATE 1-Bebe sees smaller 4th-qtr profit, shares down

Thu May 3, 2012 5:11pm EDT

* Q3 EPS break even vs est $0.01

* Revenue up 10.5 pct to $109.5 mln

* Forecasts Q4 EPS $0.02-0.04 vs est $0.08

May 3 (Reuters) - Women's apparel retailer Bebe Stores Inc expects fourth-quarter earnings to fall on slower comparable store sales growth and lower merchandise margins, sending its shares down 10 percent.

Bebe, which caters to 21-to-34-year-olds with its fashionable party and professional wear, forecast fourth-quarter earnings of 2 cents to 4 cents a share.

The outlook came in below analysts' estimate of a profit of 8 cents a share, setting up the company for its first earnings miss in five quarters.

The company expects comparable store sales growth in the low-single digit range for the quarter. In the year ago period, comparable sales had risen 7 percent.

Bebe, which had fallen out of favor with its clientele due to fashion missteps, took steps to correct those mistakes last year. It looped in celebrities like Kim Kardashian to promote and design its lines and discontinued its underperforming PH8 line.

The company also expects its fourth quarter profit to be hit by higher compensation, advertising and other expenses.

For the third quarter, the company reported net loss of $0.2 million, or break even on a per share basis, compared with a loss of $2.6 million or 3 cents a share last year.

Sales rose 10.5 percent to $121 million.

Analysts, on average expected the company to earn 1 cent a share on a revenue of $118.68 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Brisbane, California-based company reported a 7.2 percent rise in same-store sales.

Bebe shares, which have gained 27 percent in the last 12 months, closed at $8.04 on Thursday on the Nasdaq. They were down 10 percent at $7.26.

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