Panera Bread: expects no growth in Q4 profit

St. Louis / MO. (wib) Quick-casual restaurant chain Panera Bread Company does not expect fourth-quarter earnings to grow due to pressures on profit margins so far this year, the company says. Panera Bread expects earnings of 53 cents to 59 cents per share in the fourth quarter, barely in line with last year´s results and Wall Street expectations. The company posted a profit of 59 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2006 – or 62 cents per share excluding a charge – and analysts polled by Thomson Financial forecast the same earnings of 59 cents per share, on average. Lower profit margins due to higher costs and increased demand for more expensive products like salads weighed on third-quarter results. Panera is «operating in a very uncertain consumer and cost environment», Chief Executive Ron Shaich says in a statement. The company is targeting earnings-per-share growth of ten percent to 20 percent for fiscal 2008.