UK bakery chain Greggs has reported a 10.4% rise in full-year pre-tax profit and said it is well placed for another year of growth in 2004.

The company posted pre-tax profit of £40.5m (US$73.7m) for 2003, compared to £36.7m for the previous year. Earnings per share increased 10.2% to 230.5p.

The company said like-for-like sales rose 3.3%, while core volume growth was 1.5%. Greggs said there had been a progressive improvement in like-for-like sales after the impact of last summer's heat wave.

During 2003, the company expanded its chain by 29 outlets to a total of 1,231 outlets.

"There are some signs that growth of the sandwich market may be slowing after the rapid expansion of recent years, and we are facing strong competition from both new and established operators," said chairman Derek Netherton, adding that the company is well equipped to meet such challenges.

"Like-for-like sales in the first nine weeks of the year are up by 3.1%, and I believe that we are well placed to deliver another year of progress," said Netherton.