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Pier 1 3Q profit up 3 pct; outlook matches St.

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Pier 1 Imports Inc. said Thursday that its fiscal third-quarter net income rose 3 percent, as more shoppers visited its stores and spent more money while they were there.

The home decor store chain predicted a profit for the current quarter that was in line with analyst expectations, and also raised its dividend.

Strong traffic trends during the September-November quarter had continued during the run-up to Christmas, said CEO Alex Smith in a statement. The holiday shopping season can make up as much as 40 percent of a retailer's annual revenue.

The company, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, earned $23.7 million, or 22 cents per share, in the September-November quarter, up from $23 million, or 21 cents per share, from the same months last year.

Excluding the estimated effects of tax rate changes and Superstorm Sandy, which struck the East Coast in late October, the company's profit came to 25 cents per share.

Revenue rose 11 percent to $424.5 million from $382.7 million, as more customers shopped at Pier 1 and spent more on purchases, on average. Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key figure for retailers, increased 7.9 percent

The results came in slightly ahead of Wall Street predictions. Analysts, on average, expected a profit of 24 cents per share on $422.2 million in revenue, according to a FactSet poll.

For the current quarter, which ends in February, Pier 1 projected an adjusted fourth-quarter profit of 57 cents to 61 cents per share, mostly higher than analysts' estimate of 58 cents per share. In the same quarter the year before, Pier 1's adjusted profit was 48 cents per share.

Also on Thursday, Pier 1 announced a 1-cent bump in the quarterly dividend to 5 cents. It will be paid on Jan. 30 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 16. The company also allotted $100 million to buying back its shares, which can increase the value of shareholders' stakes and support earnings per share.

The company's stock rose 52 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $19.60 in premarket trading Thursday. Shares have gained 37 percent this year through Wednesday's close.