KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Interstate Bakeries Corp., the nation's largest wholesale baker, beat Wall Street estimates with its fourth-quarter earnings on Friday, citing strong sales and cost controls.

Its stock surged more than 18 percent.

The maker of Hostess Twinkies and Wonder bread earned $15.1 million, or 30 cents a share, for the quarter ended June 2, up from $7.8 million, or 12 cents a share, last year.

The latest results were well above the consensus of 15 cents a share of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call.

Shares were up $3.24 at $20.52 in afternoon trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, above its 52-week closing high of $20.37.

Net sales for the quarter were $820 million versus $867.2 million a year earlier. Sales were up 2.7 percent, however, if the extra week included in last year's fourth quarter were excluded.

``Though our net sales increase for the quarter remained modest, the growth reflects improved pricing with a moderation in unit volume declines experienced in the prior quarter,'' IBC chief executive Charles A. Sullivan said.

For fiscal 2001, IBC earned $61.1 million, or $1.13 a share, compared to $89.4 million, or $1.31 a share, a year ago.

Net sales for fiscal 2001 were $3.5 billion, nearly unchanged from the previous year.

Interstate Bakeries operates 65 bread and cake bakeries across the country. IBC markets the Home Pride, Butternut, Marie Callender's and Dolly Madison brand names.