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Are Sonic Earnings Enough for Investors?

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Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ: SONC) reported its fiscal third-quarter financial results after the markets closed Monday. The fast-food company had $0.36 in earnings per share (EPS) on $164.7 million in revenue, compared to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates of $0.36 in EPS on $164.17 million in revenue. The same period from the previous year had $0.30 in EPS on $152.19 million in revenue.

During the quarter, system same-store sales (SSS) increased 6.1%, comprised of a 6.1% SSS increase at franchise drive-ins and an increase of 5.5% at company drive-ins. The company also noted that weather had a disproportionately adverse impact on company drive-in sales this quarter.

The company gave guidance for fiscal 2015. It expects EPS growth of 27% to 29% compared to fiscal 2014 EPS of $0.84. The consensus estimate for fiscal 2015 is $1.09 in EPS, slightly higher than the new guidance.

As for the fiscal fourth quarter, Sonic expects positive SSS in the mid- to single-digit range and at the same time plans to open 22 to 27 new franchise drive-ins. The drive-in-level margin improvement is expected to be between 100 to 150 basis points, reflecting an improving outlook for commodity cost inflation and leverage from company drive-in SSS growth.

Cliff Hudson, CEO of Sonic, commented on earnings:

We are very pleased with our strong sales and financial performance driven by a healthy mix of traffic and check. Our results are especially noteworthy given our strong results from the same quarter prior year. New product news in key categories, effective media and a layered promotional strategy are expected to continue to drive our sales in the near term. Technology initiatives designed to provide a more personalized and customized customer experience are also expected to complement our product and media initiatives and drive sales over the next several years.

The company ended the quarter with $22.9 million in cash and cash equivalents, down from $35.7 million at the end of fiscal 2014.

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Shares of Sonic closed Monday up 2.6% at $34.22, within a 52-week trading range of $20.25 to $36.73. Following the release of the earnings report, shares were down 2.6% at $33.19 in the after-hours trading session. The stock has a consensus analyst price of $36.62.

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