California Pizza Slices Targets

The dining chain cuts guidance for both the fourth quarter and 2008.
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California Pizza Kitchen (CPKI) , burned by weaker-than-expected sales, cut its fourth-quarter profit estimate and also lowered its expectations for 2008.

The restaurant operator now anticipates a profit of 16 cents to 18 cents a share for the fourth quarter, down from its prior guidance of 22 cents to 23 cents. Analysts, on average, had forecast earnings of 23 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.

The company estimates that same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, rose 1.8% in the period. California Pizza had projected a 2% to 3% rise in same-store sales.

The same-store sales growth was at the high end of targets, at 2.8%, in October. But they dropped off in November and December, rising just 1.7% and 0.7%, respectively.

For fiscal 2008, California Pizza, noting macroeconomic concerns, now anticipates earnings of 54 cents to 60 cents a share, with same-store sales flat to down 1%.

In November, the company forecast 2008 earnings of 85 cents to 92 cents a share and same-store sales growth of 2% to 3%. Wall Street has projected a profit of 89 cents a share for the year.

Casual dining chains, along with other consumer-focused companies, have taken big hits lately as middle-income customers cut back on spending amid the housing slump and credit tightening.

Brinker International

(EAT) - Get Report

, owner of the Chili's and On the Border chains, warned last week of a profit shortfall for the recently ended quarter, while

Ruby Tuesday


posted a quarterly loss and slashed targets for the coming year.

This article was written by a staff member of