The Wendy's Company WEN reported mixed results for the third quarter of 2018, wherein revenues missed estimates while earnings exceeded the same.
Adjusted earnings of 17 cents surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 15 cents by 13.3%. The bottom line also increased a whopping 88.9% year over year, primarily favored by the positive effect of lower tax rate from Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Increase in adjusted EBITDA also boosted the reported quarter's earnings.
Quarterly revenues of $400.6 million lagged the consensus mark of $406.4 million by 1.4%. However, the top line improved 30% from the year-ago quarter, driven by increased sales at the company-operated restaurants. Sales were favored by an increase in the number of operating restaurants and positive comps.
Revenues also gained from an increase in franchise royalty revenues and fees, which were primarily driven by new restaurant development and lower franchise incentives.
Meanwhile, comps at the North America system restaurants were down 0.2% compared with an increase of 1.9% in the second quarter and 2% in the year-ago quarter.
Despite earnings beat; comps decline, sales miss and lowered outlook for comps growth in 2018 may have disappointed investors. Subsequently, Wendy's shares declined more than 6% in the pre-market trading session on Nov 7. Further, year to date, the company's shares have gained 1.3%, underperforming the industry 's rally of 8.9%.
Let's delve deeper into the numbers.
System-Wide Sales Discussion
Global system-wide sales, including both company-operated and franchise restaurants, were $2.7 million in the reported quarter, up 1.7% from the prior-year quarter. The North America system-wide sales were $2.5 million in the third quarter, reflecting 1.2% year-over-year increase. Systemwide sales at the International segment amounted to $0.13 million in the quarter under review, up 13.2% year over year.
Company-operated restaurant margin was 15.7% in the reported quarter compared with 15.9% in the year-ago quarter. The 20-basis points (bps) decline was primarily caused by higher insurance and labor costs, partially offset by pricing actions and lower commodity costs.
General and administrative expenses in the third quarter were $46.5 million, down 10.1% from $51.7 million recorded in the prior-year quarter. The decline reflected a decline in incentive compensation accrual, and lower employee compensation and related expenses that stemmed from the company's G&A savings efforts.
Third-quarter operating profit amounted to $77.3 million, marking 24.1% increase from the year-ago quarter's figure of $62.3 million. Net income of $391.2 million increased from $13.7 million recorded in the year-ago quarter.
Adjusted EBITDA increased 9.8% from the prior-year quarter, primarily from revenue growth, and lower general and administrative expenses. Adjusted EBITDA margin also expanded 200 bps to 33.6%.
The Wendy's Company Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise
The Wendy's Company Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise | The Wendy's Company Quote
Cash and cash equivalents as of Sep 30, 2018, was $634.8 million compared with nearly $171.4 million as of Dec 31, 2017. Inventories at the end of the third quarter amounted to $3.3 million, up from $3.2 million at the end of 2017.
Long-term debt totaled $2.31 billion as of Sep 30, 2018, compared with $2.26 billion as of Dec 31, 2017.
Wendy's approved an increase of $120 million to its share repurchase authorization of $100 million from August 2018 at the same time when it announced the sale of its stake in Inspire Brands. This authorization currently totals $220 million and expires on Dec 27, 2019.
Through Oct 30, 2018, management repurchased 8.5 million shares for $146.2 million at an average price of $17.21 per share. The company now has roughly $249 million remaining on its share repurchase authorizations.
In the third quarter, Wendy's had 37 global restaurant openings, with an increase of 13 net new units.
Image Activation remains an integral part of the company's global growth strategy, and includes reimaging of existing restaurants and building new ones. At the end of the third quarter, 48% of the global system was image activated. In the quarter under review, Wendy's facilitated nine Franchise Flips.
In the third quarter, the company acquired 16 restaurants in the Columbus, OH, for roughly $21.4 million as part of its ongoing system optimization strategy. It continues to anticipate company-operated restaurant ownership of roughly 5% of the total system.
For 2018, the company expects North America comps growth of 1% (down from 2-2.5% growth projected earlier), with commodity and labor inflation of 1-2% and 3-4%, respectively. Company-operated restaurant margin is expected to be 16%-16.5% (down from 17-18% stated earlier). It anticipates adjusted EBITDA margin of approximately 33%.
Adjusted EPS is anticipated to be 56-58 cents, slightly higher from 55-57 cents guided earlier.
For 2018, Wendy's expects 2018 global net new unit growth of 1.5%, comprised of roughly 1% growth in North America and 10% growth in International.
Zacks Rank & Peer Releases
Wendy's currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see t he complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here .
McDonald's MCD reported impressive third-quarter 2018 results , wherein both earnings and revenues surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Adjusted earnings per share of $2.10 surpassed the consensus mark of $1.98 by 6.1% and increased 19% from the year-ago quarter (22% in constant currencies). The upside reflects stronger operating performance.
Domino's DPZ reported mixed quarterly numbers for third-quarter 2018 , wherein earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate but revenues missed the same. Adjusted earnings of $1.95 per share outpaced the consensus mark of $1.73 and increased 53.5% on a year-over-year basis. The bottom-line improvement was driven by higher net income and lower diluted share count as a result of share repurchases.
Restaurant Brands QSR reported lower-than-expected results in third-quarter 2018 . Adjusted earnings of 63 cents per share missed the consensus mark by a couple of cents. However, the reported figure increased 8.6% from the year-ago quarter. This uptick can be primarily attributable to consistent improvement in the company's top line along with the recovery of preferred shares in December 2017.
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Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Domino's Pizza Inc (DPZ): Free Stock Analysis Report McDonald's Corporation (MCD): Free Stock Analysis Report The Wendy's Company (WEN): Free Stock Analysis Report Restaurant Brands International Inc. (QSR): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research