Wendy's preliminary 4Q earnings top expectations

Wendy's preliminary 4th quarter earnings, 2014 forecast beat analyst expectations

Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) -- Shares of Wendy's Co. jumped Monday before markets opened and after the fast-food restaurant chain reported preliminary fourth-quarter results and a 2014 forecast that both topped expectations.

The Dublin, Ohio, company also announced a new share buyback program and said it expects about $235 million in proceeds from the sale of more than 400 restaurants.

Fast-food companies have been facing tough competition from chains such as Chipotle, which have a more upscale image and the ability to charge higher prices for their food. In response, Wendy's Co. has been offering new items such as more premium breads for its sandwiches, such as pretzel and brioche buns.

Wendy's said it expects fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of between 10 cents and 11 cents per share. The company will release audited financial results on Feb. 27. It reported the range because it has not completed tax closing procedures for last year.

That range topped average analyst expectations of 6 cents per share, according to FactSet.

The company said its fourth-quarter revenue will fall 6 percent to $592.4 million, which is lower than analyst expectations of $605.7 million.

Wendy's said its revenue fell largely due to a reduction in company-owned restaurants, but revenue from its established North American, company-operated restaurants climbed 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

For 2014, Wendy's expects adjusted earnings to range between 34 cents and 36 cents per share. Analysts, meanwhile, forecast 29 cents per share, on average.

The company's board approved a new share buyback program for up to $275 million in common stock in 2014.

Wendy's also said it aims to complete by the second quarter the sale of about 415 company-operated restaurants to franchisees.

Company shares jumped 8.4 percent, or 71 cents, to $9.15 in premarket trading.

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