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Bloomin' Brands 4Q falls short on bigger costs

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Bloomin' Brands Inc., the owner of the Outback Steakhouse and other restaurant chains, said Thursday that its fourth-quarter net income dropped by nearly half due to higher costs and debt refinancing charges.

But revenue rose nearly 5 percent as the restaurant company attracted more customers with improved menus and promotions and better customer service. It also benefited from a shift in the timing of holidays, which was partially offset by the impact of Superstorm Sandy.

The company earned $18.4 million, or 15 cents per share, for the period that ended Dec. 31. That compares with $30.5 million, or 28 cents per share, for the same period in the prior year. After adjusting for costs of taking the company public, debt refinancing and other items, it earned 20 cents per share versus 10 cents per share.

Its total revenue increased to $998.4 million from $955.6 million, on modest price increases and more customers in its restaurants. The company's revenue from restaurants open at least a year and a half increased 3.5 percent at its company-owned restaurants. This is considered a key indicator of financial performance as it strips away the impact of recently opened or closed sites.

Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast that the company would earn 19 cents per share on revenue of $1 billion.

Bloomin' Brands, based in Tampa, Fla., is one of the largest casual dining restaurant companies in the world with chains such as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and Roy's. It owned and operated 1,268 restaurants as of the end of the quarter, plus 203 sites operating under a franchise or joint venture arrangement.

CEO and Chairman Elizabeth Smith said the quarter represents a strong finish to the year as the company continued to gain market share in a competitive environment. However, Chief Financial Officer David Deno said that while the company feels very good about its plans and financial goals for 2013, it anticipates that the first quarter will be challenging for the casual dining industry.

The company expects revenue from its established stores and traffic in its core concept restaurants to be flat to up 1 percent for the quarter by comparison to the prior year. For the full year, the company expects this traffic and this key sales measure will increase at least 2 percent.

Bloomin' Brands forecast full-year earnings of at least $1.06 on an adjusted basis on revenue of roughly $4.2 billion. Analysts, on average, forecast earnings of $1.05 per share on revenue of $4.2 billion.

The company said it plans to add 45 to 55 restaurants during the year and renovate about 80 Outback and 50 to 60 Carrabba's restaurants.

Bloomin' Brands shares fell 17 cents to close at $18.05. Shares were unchanged in after-hours trading following its earnings report release. Its shares are at the higher-end of its 52-week trading range of $11.57 to $18.99.