Even so, Sonic's stock has been a perennial laggard since the recession, falling from a high of $25.09 in 2007 to less than $9 earlier this year. Lynch put that performance into context, noting that shareholders have endured an annualized decline of 25% since 2008. Sales and net income dropped 12% and 25% annually, on average, over that span. Morningstar, seeing value in the depressed equity, upgraded it to five stars, the researcher's highest rating, on Dec. 31, Lynch reported. Stressing margin buoyancy and uniqueness of format, Sonic is Morningstar's preferred play in the QSR, or quick-service restaurant, space. On June 22, Sonic posted a fiscal third-quarter loss of $4.7 million, or 8 cents loss per share. On an adjusted basis however, excluding costs associated with the early extinguishment of debt, earnings came in at 21 cents per share. Revenue rose 4.2% year-over-year to $152.1 million in the May-ended quarter. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters was for earnings of 18 cents a share on revenue of $151.4 million. Systemwide same-store sales increased 3.9%, including a 3.6% uptick at franchised drive-in locations and 6.5% at company-owned restaurants.