In an age of misleading boardroom spin, it's refreshing to see something a little different. That's why I was shocked today when I read the latest numbers from IHOP
To be honest, I really wondered if this was some kind of reverse-psychology, Jedi mind trick designed to mask even crummier news. But it appears my Machiavellian suspicions may be misplaced. The numbers are all here, broken out sans hype, and many of them look pretty good.
Yes, IHOP dropped Q4 and full-year earnings per share by 26.8% and 11.5% respectively, but comps were up 4.8% for the year, and system-wide sales were up 14.6%. Those results are in line with countrified breakfast and lunch competitors, such as Bob Evans Farms
Then why the earnings drop? There were reorganization charges to consider. Excluding these, the company's EPS would have ticked up slightly by 2.1%, to $1.96. What are the charges for? Glad you asked.
IHOP's in the midst of a turnaround that aims to move the company from an operational model to a franchising model. One impact has been a slowed pace of restaurant openings compared with previous years (which is one reason total revenues were down slightly for Q4).
What this means for shareholders is tougher to say. IHOP looked like it was a solid value play last year, when shares traded about 57% lower than today's $36. But that's in the past. The company is still free cash flow negative, though the emergence of the new business model should change that. With next year's guidance around $1.65 per share, the firms trades at a forward P/E around 22, which is a lot pricier than the competitors mentioned above. If you opt in to IHOP today, you ought to have faith that there's some substantial growth ahead.
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Nihilist Fool contributor Seth Jayson will have the Lingonberry pancakes, as will his four-toed, Teutonic companion. He owns no stake in any company mentioned here.