Sonic posts record earnings

Thursday, January 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A major expansion program helped the Sonic Corp. drive-in restaurant chain post record sales and earnings in the first quarter despite cool weather and an economic downturn.

The Oklahoma City-based company, which has 2,300 restaurants in 30 states, announced Wednesday that it had first-quarter sales of $87.3 million, up 23 percent from $71 million in the first quarter of 2001.

The company opened 48 drive-ins, including 36 franchise restaurants, during the first quarter and plans to open a record 190 to 200 stores this year.

Profits increased 12 percent, climbing from $8.5 million in the first quarter of 2001 to $9.6 million in the quarter ended Nov. 30. Earnings per share also grew, increasing 9.7 percent from 31 cents in the first quarter of 2001 to 34 cents in the corresponding quarter this year.

Earnings matched analysts expectations.

``This is the largest first-quarter revenue -- and earnings per share -- in the history of the company,'' said Robert Rader, senior vice president of Capital West Securities Inc. in Oklahoma City.

``I can't think of another public company of this size that started in Oklahoma, is headquartered here and is the largest in their industry.''

Also, Sonic is more than doubling the number of drive-ins offering breakfast. This expansion will bring the number of stores with breakfast menus -- currently at 400 -- to more than 900 by this spring.

``We are very encouraged by the response to our breakfast initiative from both customers and operators,'' said Sonic Chief Executive Clifford Hudson said.

The company expects earnings growth of 18 percent to 20 percent in 2002.