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* Q2 EPS $1.50 vs Street view $1.43
* Revenue up almost 18 percent to $530.6 million
* Raises full-year forecast
* Shares up 5.7 percent
July 24 (Reuters) - Panera Bread Co reported better-than-expected second quarter earnings on Tuesday after sales growth at its established bakery-cafes exceeded analysts' estimates, and shares rose almost 6 percent.
Panera's second-quarter sales at company-owned bakery-cafes open at least 18 months jumped 7.1 percent, largely due to menu price increases. That result topped the 6 percent gain expected by Lazard Capital Markets restaurant analyst Matt DiFrisco, who prior to Tuesday's report had picked Panera and Starbucks Corp as favorites.
Same-restaurant sales for both company and franchised Panera units were up 5.9 percent, more than the 5.2 percent analysts had expected, according to Thomson Reuters data.
"We continue to view Panera as a defensive pick in the restaurant sector," Miller Tabak & Co analyst Stephen Anderson said in a client note.
If there is no recession, Panera could continue to turn in mid-single-digit growth in same-restaurant sales for the next few quarters, he said.
Second-quarter net income at Panera, one of the top performing U.S. restaurant chains, rose almost 24 percent to $44.1 million, or $1.50 cents per share - topping analysts' average estimate by 7 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue increased almost 18 percent to $530.6 million.
Panera also raised its forecast for 2012 earnings per share to a range of $5.72 to $5.78 from a previous range of range of $5.58 to $5.63.
Shares in Panera rose 5.7 percent to $150 in extended trading. The stock hit an all-time high of almost $166 in March.