Denny’s Corporation Reports Results for Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2016

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Denny’s Corporation (NASDAQ:DENN), franchisor and operator of one of America’s largest franchised full-service restaurant chains, today reported results for its fourth quarter and full year ended December 28, 2016.

Full Year 2016 Highlights

  • Domestic system-wide same-store sales increased 0.9%, including an increase of 1.1% at company restaurants and an increase of 0.8% at domestic franchised restaurants.
  • Opened 50 system restaurants including 14 international franchised locations.
  • Completed 240 remodels including 27 at company restaurants.
  • Company restaurant operating margin grew 11.1% to $65.2 million while franchise operating margin grew 4.2% to $98.8 million.
  • Net Income was $19.4 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, including a pre-tax settlement loss of $24.3 million resulting from the Company’s pension plan liquidation.
  • Adjusted Net Income* grew 15.2% to $42.3 million while Adjusted Net Income per Share* grew 26.5% to $0.55.
  • Adjusted EBITDA* improved by 12.0% to $99.4 million.
  • Generated $51.1 million of Free Cash Flow*, after cash capital expenditures of $34.0 million.
  • Allocated $58.7 million towards share repurchases.

Fourth Quarter Highlights

  • Domestic system-wide same-store sales increased 0.5%, including an increase of 0.1% at company restaurants and an increase of 0.6% at domestic franchised restaurants.
  • Opened 12 system restaurants including four international franchised locations.
  • Completed 51 remodels including 10 at company restaurants.
  • Company restaurant operating margin expanded 22.3% to $16.6 million while franchise operating margin grew 3.7% to $25.2 million.
  • Net Income increased 28.7% to $11.3 million, or $0.15 per diluted share.
  • Adjusted Net Income* grew 41.3% to $12.6 million while Adjusted Net Income per Share* grew 52.9% to $0.17.
  • Adjusted EBITDA* improved by 17.8% to $25.8 million.
  • Generated $14.4 million of Free Cash Flow*, after cash capital expenditures of $6.5 million.
  • Allocated $39.0 million towards share repurchases.

“We are pleased with our performance during the fourth quarter and full year, particularly in light of the pervasive challenges within the restaurant industry,” commented John Miller, Denny’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  “Throughout the year, we continued to successfully execute our brand revitalization strategy and delivered an improved and differentiated experience for our guests across food, service, and atmosphere.  These efforts resulted in market share gains and impressive growth in company and franchise margins.  In addition, we delivered our best year of unit expansion in the past five years.  Moving forward, despite an uncertain industry outlook, Denny’s remains committed to further elevating the guest experience, consistently growing same-store sales, and expanding the brand across the globe, leading to value creation for all franchisees and shareholders.”

Fourth Quarter Results

Denny’s domestic system-wide same-store sales increased 0.5%, including a 0.1% increase at company restaurants and a 0.6% increase at domestic franchised restaurants.  During the quarter, the Company acquired one franchised restaurant.  Denny’s franchisees opened 12 restaurants and closed seven restaurants, bringing the total number of restaurants to 1,733.

Denny’s total operating revenue grew 4.5% to $129.6 million due to an increase in both company restaurant sales and franchise royalties.  Company restaurant sales improved 6.1% to $94.6 million due to a greater number of company restaurants compared to the prior year quarter and same-store sales growth.  Franchise and licensing revenue grew 0.5% to $35.0 million primarily due to higher royalty revenue, partially offset by a decrease in occupancy revenue.

Company restaurant operating margin of $16.6 million, or 17.5% of company restaurant sales, increased $3.0 million, or 230 basis points.  Franchise operating margin of $25.2 million, or 72.1% of franchise and licensing revenue, increased $0.9 million, or 220 basis points.

Total general and administrative expenses were $17.3 million compared to $16.8 million in the prior year quarter as lower incentive compensation was offset by higher stock-based compensation.  Interest expense of $3.3 million increased $0.7 million due to higher borrowings compared to the prior year quarter.  Denny’s ended the quarter with $245.6 million of total debt outstanding, including $218.5 million of borrowings under its revolving credit facility.  Depreciation and amortization expense of $6.0 million increased $0.3 million.

The provision for income taxes was $1.9 million, reflecting an effective tax rate of 14.4%.  During the quarter, amended federal tax returns for prior years were filed in order to claim foreign tax credits in lieu of foreign tax deductions.  These returns generated $1.7 million in additional tax credits and $0.9 million in federal income tax refunds.  The Company paid $1.9 million in cash taxes during the quarter.

Denny’s Net Income of $11.3 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, grew 28.7%.  Adjusted Net Income per Share* of $0.17 grew 52.9% compared to the prior year quarter and included $0.04 per share resulting from the amended tax return filings.

Free Cash Flow* and Capital Allocation

Denny’s generated $14.4 million of Free Cash Flow* in the quarter after investing $6.5 million in cash capital expenditures, including the acquisition of one franchised restaurant and the remodeling of 10 company restaurants.

During the quarter, the Company allocated $39.0 million to share repurchases, including a $25.0 million accelerated share repurchase agreement entered into in November 2016 and completed in February 2017.  As part of this agreement, approximately 1.5 million shares were repurchased during the fourth quarter and approximately 0.5 million shares were repurchased following the close of the fourth quarter.  As of December 28, 2016, the Company had approximately $79 million remaining in authorized share repurchases, including the impact of the accelerated share repurchase agreement.

Business Outlook

The following full year 2017 estimates are based on management’s expectations at this time.

  • Same-store sales growth at company and domestic franchised restaurants between 0% and 2%.
  • 45 to 50 new restaurant openings, with net restaurant growth of 10 to 20 restaurants.
  • Total operating revenue between $523 and $532 million including franchise and licensing revenue between $140 and $142 million.
  • Company restaurant margin between 17.5% and 18% and franchise restaurant margin between 71% and 71.5%.
  • Total general and administrative expenses between $68 and $71 million.
  • Adjusted EBITDA* between $101 and $103 million.
  • Depreciation and amortization expense between $23 and $24 million.
  • Net interest expense between $12.5 and $13 million.
  • Effective income tax rate between 35% and 37% with cash taxes between $7 and $9 million.
  • Cash capital expenditures between $22 and $24 million including the relocation of three high-performing company restaurants due to impending loss of property control.
  • Free Cash Flow* between $58 and $60 million.

*  Adjusted Net Income excludes debt refinancing charges, impairment charges, gains on sales of assets, and other adjustments including the pension settlement loss.  The forward looking non-GAAP estimates set forth above are provided only on a non-GAAP basis.  The Company is not able to reconcile these forward-looking non-GAAP estimates to their most directly comparable GAAP estimates without unreasonable efforts because it is unable to predict or forecast the items impacting these estimates with a reasonable degree of accuracy.  The Company is unable to determine the probable significance of the unavailable information.  Please refer to the historical reconciliation of Net Income to Adjusted Income Before Taxes, Adjusted Net Income, Adjusted Net Income per Share, Adjusted EBITDA, and Free Cash Flow included in the following tables.

Conference Call and Webcast Information

Denny’s will provide further commentary on the results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 28, 2016 on its quarterly investor conference call today, Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Interested parties are invited to listen to a live broadcast of the conference call accessible through the investor relations section of Denny’s website at investor.dennys.com.  A replay of the call may be accessed at the same location later in the day and will remain available for 30 days.

About Denny’s

Denny’s Corporation is the franchisor and operator of one of America’s largest franchised full-service restaurant chains, based on the number of restaurants.  As of December 28, 2016, Denny’s had 1,733 franchised, licensed, and company restaurants around the world with combined sales of $2.8 billion including 123 restaurants in Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, New Zealand, Honduras, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, the United Arab Emirates, Guam, the Philippines, Curaçao, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago.  For further information on Denny’s, including news releases, links to SEC filings, and other financial information, please visit the Denny’s investor relations website at investor.dennys.com.

The Company urges caution in considering its current trends and any outlook on earnings disclosed in this press release.  In addition, certain matters discussed in this release may constitute forward-looking statements.  These forward-looking statements, which reflect its best judgment based on factors currently known, are intended to speak only as of the date such statements are made and involve risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause the actual performance of Denny’s Corporation, its subsidiaries, and underlying restaurants to be materially different from the performance indicated or implied by such statements.  Words such as “expect”, “anticipate”, “believe”, “intend”, “plan”, “hope”, and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements.  Except as may be required by law, the Company expressly disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this release or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.  Factors that could cause actual performance to differ materially from the performance indicated by these forward-looking statements include, among others:  competitive pressures from within the restaurant industry; the level of success of our operating initiatives and advertising and promotional efforts; adverse publicity; health concerns arising from food-related pandemics, outbreaks of flu viruses, such as avian flu, or other diseases; changes in business strategy or development plans; terms and availability of capital; regional weather conditions; overall changes in the general economy (including with regard to energy costs), particularly at the retail level; political environment (including acts of war and terrorism); and other factors from time to time set forth in the Company’s SEC reports and other filings, including but not limited to the discussion in Management’s Discussion and Analysis and the risks identified in Item 1A. Risk Factors contained in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 30, 2015 (and in the Company’s subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q).