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UNION, NJ-For its fiscal third quarter, domestics and home furnishing retailer Beth Bath & Beyond reports some strong numbers, including net earnings of $121.9 million ($.40 per share) in the quarter ended November 27, an increase of roughly 21.3% from the $100.5 million ($.33 per share) earned in Q3 2003. Also, comp-store sales for the third quarter grew by about 3.1% compared with the previous year.

Looking ahead, Bed Bath & Beyond expects net sales to grow between 10% and 12% in the fourth quarter. Comp-store sales will grow in the 3% to 5% range in the same period, compared with about 8% in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the company.

But perhaps the strongest number of all for the company is its stockpile of cash and cash equivalents, which it tabulates at about $1.3 billion at the end of the third quarter. Moreover, it has no appreciable debt.

One thing that the company has decided to do with part of its war chest is initiate a $350-million share repurchase program, its first ever. “We have $1.3 billion, and have been debt-free for over eight years,” said Steven Temares, CEO and member of the board of directors, in the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call this week. “Our board took action on the repurchase program, which we expect to complete in 12 months, based on our strong financial condition. Also, we should be able to continue to invest in our infrastructure, and maintain our flexibility, to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.”

Currently, the company operates a total of 698 stores, including 640 Bed Bath & Beyond locations—34 of which opened during the third quarter 2004—in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Also, it owns 26 Christmas Tree Shops (acquired in 2003) in seven states, two of which opened in Q3 2004; and 32 Harmon Stores (acquired in 2002) in three states, one of which opened during Q3 2004. During its fiscal fourth quarter, the company plans to open about 20 Bed Bath & Beyond stores, in both new and existing markets, and four Harmon Stores.

“We believe that home-related products will continue to be one of the most attractive sectors in retailing, and we are positioned to take advantage of future opportunities,” says Leonard Feinstein, company chairman. “Despite our substantial growth, our share of the $100 home goods market remains relatively modest, affording us the opportunity to grow to over 1,100 Bed Bath & Beyond stores in the United States.”

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