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Cheesecake Factory's 4Q profit falls

CALABASAS HILLS Calif. The Cheesecake Factory Inc.'s fourth-quarter profit plunged more than 46 percent as slowed sales and $3 million in asset impairment charges took their toll on the casual-dining powerhouse.

The company, which operates 145 namesake restaurants and 13 Grand Lux Cafe units, said Thursday that net income for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 30 was $7.1 million, or 12 cents per share, compared to $13.3 million, or 19 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Excluding impairment charges for three underperforming restaurants, the company said that net income would have been $9 million, or 15 cents per share, which topped the average analyst estimate of earnings of 14 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.

“Our financial performance was as expected for the quarter and in line with our guidance,” said David Overton, chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “We wrote down the value of three Cheesecake Factory restaurants this quarter, but the restaurants will remain open as we work to improve their productivity.”

Revenues for the quarter were $400.4 million, down 1.5 percent from $406.3 million in the year-ago period. Same-store sales fell 7.1 percent in the fourth quarter, the company said.

Overton noted that the company had kept expenses at the corporate and restaurant level in line, and had generated $84 million in cash flow during 2008, some of which would be applied to debt in 2009.

For the year ended Dec. 30, net income was $52.3 million, or 82 cents a share, down more than 29 percent from nearly $74 million, or $1.01 a share, the year earlier. Full-year revenue rose nearly 6 percent to $1.6 billion.

The company opened seven new restaurants in fiscal 2008, including two in the fourth quarter.

In fiscal 2009, Cheesecake Factory said it expected to open up to three restaurants, depending on "economic conditions and the readiness of developments in which our restaurants will be located."

Contact Robin Allen at [email protected].

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