What: Shares of Sonic Corporation (NASDAQ:SONC) rose more than 11% early Tuesday, then closed at up nearly 8% after the drive-in fast-food chain reported delicious fiscal-fourth-quarter 2015 results.
So what: Quarterly revenue rose 7% year over year to $175.3 million, driven by a combination of 7.3% same-store sales growth and new locations. In total during the fiscal year, Sonic opened 41 new drive-ins (including 18 during the quarter) and rebuilt 30 locations. That translated to a 22.8% increase in adjusted net income to $23.1 million, and -- thanks to Sonic's decision to spend $124 million in fiscal 2015 to repurchase 7.4% of all outstanding shares -- 26.5% growth in adjusted net income per share to $0.43.
Analysts, on average, were anticipating the same revenue, but slightly lower adjusted earnings of $0.42 per share.
Now what: In addition, Sonic expects fiscal 2016 earnings per share to increase 16% to 20%, resulting in a new per-share range of $1.28 to $1.32, and an increase from its previous guidance of 14% to 18%. The new range assumes planned share repurchases of $126 million (concentrated in the first half of the year), systemwide same-store sales growth of 2% to 4%, 50 to 60 new franchise drive-in openings, and drive-in-level margin improvement between 75 and 125 basis points.
By contrast, consensus estimates called for adjusted earnings per share to increase roughly 15.4% to $1.27.
In the end, there's no denying this was a solid report relative to expectations. With shares of Sonic trading at around 20 times this year's expected earnings -- a reasonable premium given its growth -- and keeping in mind its consistent outperformance of late, I won't be the least bit surprised if Sonic stock continues to reward patient shareholders going forward.