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Sonic's 1Q profit up 12 percent

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Sonic Corp.'s fiscal first-quarter profit increased 12 percent despite weaker sales, the drive-in restaurant chain reported Thursday.

Sonic earned $6.1 million, or 11 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Nov. 30. That compares with $5.5 million, or 9 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. Total revenue dropped to $126 million from $128.3 million, due in part to the refranchising of some company drive-ins in 2012.

Sonic, however, was still able to meet analysts' profit estimates and narrowly beat revenue forecasts of $125.9 million, according to FactSet

Margins improved by 80 basis points. And sales at drive-ins open at least a year increased 3 percent. Those same-store sales are considered a key assessment of financial performance, since it strips away the impact of recently opened and closed sites. Sonic expects 2013 same-store sales gains in the low single digits.

Sonic also benefited from fewer shares on the market. During the quarter it repurchased $18 million of its stock, representing about 3 percent of its outstanding shares.

The company operated 3,549 drive-ins as of the end of the period.

Sonic shares rose 10 cents to close at $10.74.