CKE posts 1.2% uptick in Dec. comps

CARPINTERIA Calif. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s parent CKE Restaurants Inc. credited strong sales of premium hamburgers for a 1.2-percent increase in blended same-store sales for December, the company said Wednesday.

Andrew Puzder, CKE’s president and chief executive, pointed to the Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger at Carl’s Jr. and the Philly Cheese Steak Thickburger at Hardee’s, which he said sold well despite competition from the discounted double cheeseburgers being promoted by quick-service rivals McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King.

For the four weeks ended Dec. 31, Carl’s Jr. saw an increase of 2.7 percent in same-store sales, a drop from the 5.6-percent increase in the same period last year, CKE reported. Hardee’s saw a drop of 0.6 percent in same-store sales, compared with an increase of 9.3 percent in the same period the previous year. Puzder said icy weather in the Midwest hurt sales at Hardee’s in December.

CKE also said Wednesday that it had authorized an expansion of its stock repurchase program by an additional $50 million.

The move increases the limit to $400 million for the repurchase program, which was initially put into effect in April 2004. In addition, the company purchased 2 million shares in a private transaction for a total of about 21.2 million shares, representing about 37.9 percent of the company’s fully diluted share count. So far, CKE has utilized about $356 million under the program, leaving a balance of $44 million.

CKE operates or franchises 1,121 Carl’s Jr. and 1,915 Hardee’s restaurants in 42 states and 13 countries.