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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Darden Restaurants, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, AFC Enterprises, Burger King Worldwide and AK Steel Holding

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – March 1, 2013 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI), Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. (RRGB), AFC Enterprises Inc. (AFCE), Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW) and AK Steel Holding Corporation (AKS).

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Here are highlights from Thursday’s Analyst Blog:

Darden to Grow in Latin America

Multi-concept, full-service restaurant operator Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI) recently announced that it has inked a development agreement with renowned restaurant operator, International Meal Company (:IMC) to enter four Latin American countries − Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Panama.

IMC will develop and operate 57 restaurants under three of Darden's brands -- Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse -- in these countries. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

IMC is a Brazil-based renowned multi-brand restaurant operator with more than 350 company-owned units in South and Central America and the Caribbean. It manages the operations of the Frango Assado and Viena flagship brands, which when put together have been around for almost 100 years and are recognized by their patrons for their quality of food and services.

Given its familiarity with local food habits a strong presence in the same industry, we believe, IMC remains a strategic fit for Darden’s expansion plan.

Last month, Darden expanded its partnership agreement with Restaurant Operators to open its Red Lobster brand of restaurants in Puerto Rico. Darden presently has its LongHorn brand in Puerto Rico and is also in agreement to launch the Olive Garden brand in the country.

Notably, last year, Darden joined forces with a Mexican casual dining company, CMR, to enter the Mexican market. The above mentioned deals affirm management’s intent to make Latin America one of the prime markets for Darden’s international expansion. Darden sees tremendous growth potential in this market where it finds takers for American dining brands.

Further, the region’s middle-income population is also rising, which could materially benefit the country’s food and beverage market. The company seeks to capitalize on this opportunity. We believe that the company is trying to spread its presence beyond the U.S. more aggressively following cut-throat competition in the rather saturated domestic casual dining market.

Darden currently retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Restaurant companies that appear to be better positioned at current levels include Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. (RRGB) with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and AFC Enterprises Inc. (AFCE) and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW) with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).


AK Steel Hikes Carbon Steel Prices


AK Steel Holding Corporation (AKS) declared that it will raise the current spot market base prices for all carbon flat-rolled steel products by at least $50 per ton. The price hike is effective immediately with new orders.

Last month, AK Steel released its fourth-quarter 2012 results. The company slipped to a wider loss in the fourth quarter, hit by hefty pension, tax charges and weak pricing.

AK Steel posted a net loss of $230.4 million (or $1.89 a share) in the quarter compared with a loss of $193.9 million (or $1.76 a share) a year ago. The company recorded a pension charge of $157.3 million and a non-cash income tax charge of $96.4 million in the reported quarter. Excluding these items, the company’s loss was 30 cents a share in the fourth quarter, which beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 35 cents.

Revenues fell 6% year over year to $1,423.1 million in the reported quarter on lower pricing, but beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,416 million.


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Read the analyst report on DRI

Read the analyst report on RRGB

Read the analyst report on AFCE

Read the analyst report on BKW

Read the analyst report on AKS

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