In the world of non-fiction writing, there's a strong admonition not to "bury your lead" -- in other words, don't put the important stuff underneath junk that doesn't matter so much. Another expression I remember from one of my football coaches comes to mind that, cleaned up for our audience, goes something like, "Don't whizz on my shoes and tell me it's raining."
With those pearls of wisdom in mind, let's take a little look at Jack in the Box
The headline today from the company's press release reads, "Jack in the Box Inc. Affirms Strategic Plan to Become a National Restaurant Company." Uh-oh. It's never a good sign when a company "affirms" something that I don't recall anyone every really questioning. But I suppose it beats my alternate headline, "Jack in the Box Yaks Up Quarter, Pulls Plug on Concept." For the life of me, I can't figure out why nobody is breaking down my door to offer me a high-paying job as a PR exec yet.
Anyways, let's get to the meat in this story -- the part that sent the stock down about 14%. The company cut its fourth-quarter same-store growth guidance for its flagship chain in half and is now projecting about $0.56 in earnings -- versus the mean analyst estimate of $0.63. Oddly enough, though, that's not really the big issue, and the company is only attributing about $0.02 of the miss to it.
The bigger factor is that the company has decided to chuck its new test concept JBX Grill, which will create a $0.05 after-tax charge for the quarter. JBX Grill was supposed to be a more upscale concept, but the company has decided instead to try to take some of the more desirable elements of JBX Grill and work them into the existing Jack in the Box concept.
I get why they're doing that -- it's a lot cheaper (in theory) to fix a broken restaurant than to build a new one -- but I'd be a bit nervous if I were a shareholder. Once a restaurant gets a bad reputation, a new color scheme and a few new sandwiches seldom redeem it.
By the way, management also offered guidance of $2.50 to $2.54 for the next fiscal year, while the average analyst estimate stands at $2.60. That pretty much buried the one piece of possible good news in the story -- that the company has authorized a $150 million share buyback over the next three years.
Jack in the Box shares may seem cheap, but I don't necessarily see them as real value. Growth seems to be a bit scarce here (on the same-store and bottom line levels), and I'd rather look at the likes of Steak 'n Shake
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).