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Darden Stock Hits Record High As Olive Garden Parent Tops Q1 Earnings, Boosts Outlook

Darden Restaurants beat earnings estimates. First-quarter sales jumped 51%.

Darden Restaurants  (DRI) - Get Darden Restaurants, Inc. Report shares hit a fresh all-time high Thursday after the parent of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse beat Wall Street's first-quarter earnings expectations, raised its quarterly dividend and unveiled a stock buyback.

For the quarter ended Aug. 29 Darden Restaurants reported net income of $230.9 million, or $1.75 a share, up from $36.1 million, or 28 cents share, in the year-earlier quarter. The latest figure beat the FactSet analyst consensus of $1.64 a share. 

Sales jumped 51% from a year earlier to $2.31 billion, which the company said was driven by a blended same-restaurant sales increase of 47.5% and the addition of 34 net new restaurants. The FactSet consensus called for sales of $2.24 billion.

The company also raised its annual guidance. Darden said it expected fiscal 2022 sales of $9.4 billion to $9.6 billion. The company called same-restaurant sales 27% to 30% higher compared with fiscal 2021, with net income is expected to range from $7.25 to $7.60 a share.  The FactSet consensus called for earnings of $7.43 a share and sales of $9.41 billion.

"Our restaurant teams continued to operate effectively in a challenging environment, and I am proud of their focus and ability to deliver another quarter of strong sales and profitability," said Gene Lee. "Regardless of the operating environment, our unwavering commitment to our strategy ensures we stay focused on what we do best: providing exceptional guest experiences."

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Darden Restaurant shares were marked 8.4% higher in early Thursday trading to change hands at $163.00 each. The stock hit an all-time high of $164.28 each earlier in the session.

Same-store sales were up 37.1% at Olive Garden and up 47% at LongHorn Steak House.

Darden's board declared a quarterly cash dividend of $1.10 a share, payable Nov. 1 to holders of record Oct. 8. The company's previous dividend was 88 cents a share.

Darden said it bought back about 1.3 million shares for roughly $186 million. 

As of the end of the first quarter, the company had about $277 million remaining under its $500 million repurchase authorization. 

Darden's board authorized the repurchase of an additional $750 million of its stock, bringing the total authorization to about $1 billion.