Panera net income rises in 3Q, co. ups outlook

ST. LOUIS -- Shares of Panera Bread rose 5 percent in aftermarket trading on Tuesday after the company reported third-quarter net income rose 27 percent on strong demand for its soups and sandwiches. Panera also raised its fourth-quarter earnings projection.

St. Louis-based Panera and other fast-casual chains like Chipotle have been gaining in popularity in the U.S. and are seen as a step up from traditional fast-food chains. However, worries about slowing growth at Chipotle have put a damper on investor enthusiasm for the sector.

Net income rose to $36.5 million, or $1.24 per share. That compares with $28.8 million, or 97 cents per share, last year. Analysts expected $1.19 per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 17 percent to $529.3 million from $453.1 million last year. Analysts expected $522.3 million.

Revenue at restaurants open at least a year, a key metric of a restaurant chain's financial health, rose 6.2 percent at company-owned locations and 5.5 at franchised locations.

For the fourth quarter, the company now expects earnings of $1.72 to $1.74 per share, up from $1.66 to $1.70 per share. Analysts had expected $1.69 per share.

For 2012, the company now expects net income of $5.86 to $5.88, up from $5.72 to $5.78. Analysts had expected $5.78 per share.

The company expects full year 2013 net income of $6.85 to $7, while analysts expect $6.90 per share.

Shares of Panera rose $8.16, or 5.1 percent, to $168.50 during aftermarket trading. The stock fell $1.37 to close at $160.34 during regular trading.