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First Albany Upgrades Bebe

First Albany upgrades Bebe Stores (BEBE) to strong buy from buy. Yesterday the company posted 39 cents second-quarter earnings per share, and forecast 11 cents to 14 cents third-quarter earnings per share on comparable sales growth in the mid-teens.

Analyst Harry Ikenson says second-quarter earnings per share of 39 cents came in below his 41 cents estimate, but notes diluted shares outstanding were 2 million above guidance, reducing second-quarter earnings per share by 2 cents.

He says sales momentum has continued and January month-to-date comparable sales trended above December results of 28%. He notes third-quarter guidance reflects planned initiatives, including increased marketing, and its signature handbag collection.

Ikenson ups his 13 cents third-quarter earnings per share estimate to 15 cents, 19 cents fourth quarter earnings per share to 20 cents, and 91 cents fiscal 2005 (ending June) to 92 cents. He keeps his $30 target.

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