Cracker Barrel parent see strong fiscal '08

LEBANON Tenn. Shares of Cracker Barrel parent CBRL Group Inc. surged Tuesday as the company reiterated that full-year, per-share profit expectations should come in above Wall Street estimates and that annual same-store sales for the company’s fiscal year ending in July would remain positive despite industry headwinds.

The rosy outlook came on the heels of an 80-percent drop in second-quarter net income, to $20.2 million, or 85 cents per share. The year-to-year drop was mainly because of unfavorable comparisons to year-earlier results that had included $82 million in income from the company’s now-sold Logan’s Roadhouse chain.

Income from continuing operations, which includes just the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant chain, dropped just 1 percent from a year ago to $20.2 million, or 85 cents a share, for the quarter ended Feb. 1, compared with $20.5 million, or 60 cents a share, in the same quarter a year earlier. The 42-percent jump in per-share profit was based on a 34-percent drop in the number of shares outstanding resulting from stock repurchases of 1.6 million shares for $52.4 million during the quarter.

Revenue for the latest quarter grew 3.6 percent to $634.5 million. Same-store sales increased 1.1 percent. Price increases, rather than traffic, were the main drivers behind the gain. Guest traffic declined 2.3 percent and average checks rose about 3.4 percent on an average menu price increase of about 3.5 percent. Same-store retail sales at its gift shops increased 1.4 percent for the quarter, the company also reported.

Officials at CBRL said they expected revenue from continuing operations for the current fiscal year to achieve a 2-percent to 3-percent increase from a year earlier. Per-share income is expected to total between $3.00 and $3.15, up from year-earlier earnings of $2.64 per share and above average analyst expectations for earnings of $2.90 per share.