Borders Group Inc., the nation's second-largest bookseller, Thursday raised its 2001 earnings estimates above previous forecasts due to strong holiday sales.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company increased its fourth-quarter guidance for earnings per share, excluding one-time items, to a range of $1.31 to $1.34 from a previous range of $1.21 to $1.29. That would result in earnings for the fiscal full year of a range of $1.29 to $1.32 a share.

Analysts had expected Borders to post fourth-quarter earnings of $1.24, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

"Our successful holiday season resulted from record superstore traffic and a healthy increase in average ticket," Borders President and Chief Executive Greg Josefowicz said in a statement.

"We did particularly well in our core book category and in popular products such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings merchandise, as well as DVD," he added.

Borders said it expects 2002 earnings to grow about 12 percent based on a modest improvement in same-store sales. Borders is due to report fourth-quarter results Jan. 31.

The company said Borders superstores achieved comparable same-store sales growth of 5.1 percent in the period from the Friday after Thanksgiving through Jan. 6, while Waldenbooks same-store sales rose 3.7 percent in that period.

On a quarter-to-date basis, Borders superstores saw same-store sales rise 3.9 percent, and Waldenbooks stores' rose 2.1 percent, Borders said.

Borders said it expects fourth-quarter operating margins will improve compared to the same period last year.

International stores' total sales quarter-to-date rose 28.5 percent over the same period last year, the company said.

Before the announcement, Borders' stock closed off 50 cents, or 2.4 percent, at $20.35 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.