Panera Bread Co., which owns and operates bakery-cafes, said on Wednesday its third-quarter net income jumped more than 81 percent due to strong sales and the addition of new stores.

The company said net income for the quarter ended October 6 increased to $2.98 million, or 20 cents per share, from $1.6 million, or 12 cents per share a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call had expected a profit of 19 cents to 20 cents a share, with an average estimate of 19 cents.

Panera Chairman and CEO Ron Shaich said the company will meet its fourth-quarter earnings target of 29 cents per share. The average First
Call estimate is 28 cents, from a range of 25 cents to 29 cents.

Panera also raised its 2002 earnings estimate to $1.22 per share, which is 7 cents more than the First Call consensus estimate of $1.15.

“Our better than expected earnings momentum continues to be fueled by the number and strength of bakery-cafe openings and increasing average sales volumes across the entire 330-unit system,” Shaich said. “This, in turn, is driving accelerated company and franchise bakery-cafe development.”

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