The Wendy's' CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

The Wendy's (WEN)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

March 01, 2012 10:00 am ET


John D. Barker - Chief Communications Officer and Senior Vice President

Stephen E. Hare - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Emil J. Brolick - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director


Michael W. Gallo - CL King & Associates, Inc.

Joseph T. Buckley - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Jason West - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Christopher T. O'Cull - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Jeffrey Andrew Bernstein - Barclays Capital, Research Division

David Palmer - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Mitchell J. Speiser - Buckingham Research Group Incorporated

Reza Vahabzadeh - Barclays Capital, Research Division

John W. Ivankoe - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Sara H. Senatore - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division



Good morning, and welcome to The Wendy's Company's Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. John Barker, Chief Communications Officer. Please go ahead, sir.

John D. Barker

Thank you. Good morning, everybody. I'm happy you could join us for the call. This morning, we issued our audited fourth quarter and full year 2011 earnings release and we filed our Form 10-K. And as we noted in the release, the audited results were the same as the preliminary results we issued on January 30.

The agenda today, we'll start with the review of our fourth quarter and full year financial results from our Chief Financial Officer, Steve Hare. And then our President and CEO, Emil Brolick, will give an update on Wendy's Recipe to Win and the progress that we have on many of our key initiatives. And then finally, we will open up the line for questions.

Today's conference call and our webcast is accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation and you can find it on our Investor Relations page at our corporate website, which is And for those of you who are listening by phone today, make sure you select the appropriate webcast player option from our website and that will ensure that you can sync up with the slides and the audio.

Before we begin, I'd like to refer you for just a minute to the Safe Harbor statement that is attached to today's release. Certain information that we may discuss today regarding future performance such as financial goals, plans and development is forward-looking. Various factors could affect the company's results and cause those results to differ materially from those expressed in our forward-looking statements. Some of those factors are referenced in the Safe Harbor statement that is attached to the news release. Also, some comments today will reference non-GAAP financial measures such as adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Investors should refer to our reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure.

With that, let me turn it over to our CFO, Steve Hare.

Stephen E. Hare

Thank you, John, and good morning, and thank you for joining us today. Even though we released preliminary results in January, let me briefly review our performance in Q4 and 2011.

North America company-owned same-store sales increased 5.1% in the fourth quarter. This sales increase was driven by both positive check and transactions. Our franchisee same-store sales increased 4.2% during the quarter. In October, we launched Dave's Hot 'N Juicy Cheeseburgers. In November, we promoted the Asiago Ranch Chicken Club and extended our national advertising of the Dave's Hot 'N Juicy line. In December, we added the W to expand our array of quality hamburger offerings with a unique taste. These product promotions drove the strong same-store sales performance across the Wendy's system. Wendy's Company restaurant margin was 15% for the fourth quarter, reflecting a 100-basis-point increase from a year ago despite higher commodity cost. Adjusted EBITDA for the fourth quarter was $80.9 million, a 10.5% increase over the fourth quarter of 2010.

Now let's take a look at the full year. Total revenues for 2011 increased $56 million or 2.4% versus the prior year, primarily as a result of the 1.9% systemwide same-store sales increase and positive transaction growth. This increase in revenues included a $9.4 million benefit from favorable Canadian foreign currency rates.

Adjusted EBITDA for the full year 2011 was $331.1 million and represented a 3.2% decrease compared to prior year. Adjusted EBITDA in the current year excluded transaction-related cost resulting from the sale of Arby's. To present comparable results, prior year adjusted EBITDA excluded Arby's indirect corporate overhead and prior integration-related costs.

Now I would like to talk about income from continuing operations and special items affecting this year's results. Income from continuing operations totaled $17.9 million or $0.04 per share in 2011. These results included Arby's after-tax transaction-related cost of $28 million or $0.07 per share. Excluding total special items of $44.2 million or $0.11 per share, our adjusted earnings per share in 2011 was $0.15.

Now let's discuss cash flow. 2011 cash flow from operations was $247 million. Capital expenditures were $147 million and were primarily related to restaurant remodels, maintenance CapEx and new restaurants. One of our strengths continues to be our ability to generate positive free cash flow, which we define as cash flow from operations less capital expenditures. We generated $100 million of positive free cash flow in 2011. We spent $158 million on stock repurchases, and we've returned $32 million to our stockholders in dividends during 2011. During the year, our cash taxes, which include only state and Canadian taxes, totaled $14 million. At year end, we have approximately $283 million in federal net operating loss carryforwards and $83 million in tax credit carryforwards which will benefit our cash flow in 2012 and beyond.

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