Whole Foods Boosts 2011 View

Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) saw its shares surge after the company posted better-than-expected earnings per share and lifted its full-year forecast above the Streets view.

In the third-quarter, the company said profit rose 15% to $206.8 million, or 50 cents a share, compared with year-ago earnings of 38 cents a share.

Revenue rose 11% to $2.4 billion during the quarter, compared with last years sales of $2.16 billion, as comparable-store sales rose 8.4%.

The results beat bottom-line expectations, as analysts had predicted earnings of 48 cents a share. Revenue was in-line with the Streets view of $2.42 billion for the fiscal third quarter, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.

The gourmet grocery store lifted its full-year forecast to earnings in the range of $1.91 and $1.92 a share, up from its previous forecast for earnings between $1.87 and $1.90 a share; the Street was looking for fiscal 2011 earnings of $1.90. The supermarket chain also refined its 2011 same-store sales forecast to between 8.5% and 8.7% growth, up from a previous view for 7.9% to 8.9% growth.

Additionally, Whole Foods gave guidance for full-year fiscal 2012 earnings between $2.21 and $2.26 a share, well above consensus estimates for $2.15 a share.

"We are continuing to gain market share at a faster rate than most public food retailers as reflected in our 8.5% comparable store sales growth year to date, said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market, in a release. We attribute much of our success to our value efforts, which have improved our price image, and to continuing to raise the bar in areas that matter to our customers, particularly quality standards and health and wellness."

Robb went on to tout the companys acceleration of new store openings. Including three relocations, the grocer opened seven stores in the third quarter, and has already opened two stores, including one relocation, in the fourth quarter. The company now owns 309 stores totaling approximately 11.7 million square feet.

Shares of Whole Foods fell $1.47 or 2.20% in Wednesdays session, before rallying more than 3% in after-hours trading on the release of third-quarter results. Year-to-date, the stock is up nearly 30%.