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Why Sonic Corp. Shares Jumped 19% in 2015

By Jeremy Bowman - Jan 10, 2016 at 7:45AM

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Strong same-store sales helped drive the burger chain's stock higher.

What: Shares of Sonic Corp. (SONC) rode the tailwinds in the fast-food market to a 19% gain last year, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. As the chart below shows, it was a rocky year for the burger slinger, but by the time the calendar flipped the fast-food chain was solidly in the green.

SONC Chart

SONC data by YCharts

So what: Sonic got off to a hot start last year, jumping 10% on January 7 after a blowout first quarter earnings report. Net income in the period jumped 23% to $10.1 million, and its per-share profit of $0.18 topped the consensus at $0.16. Shares continued to climb following the report, breaking $32, and spiked another 6% on the first trading day in March after reporting same-store sales jumped 11.5% in the second quarter. CEO Cliff Hudson credited product innovation and a national media strategy for the strong growth in traffic. 

The stock hit its 2015 peak later that month, reaching a closing high of $36.66 in anticipation of the company's second quarter earnings report. Earnings per share beat estimates by a penny and revenue also topped expectations, but shares fell 10% due to a conservative outlook.

The stock hovered around $30 for the next several months before tumbling 9% in a single session in September. The company's comparable growth slowed to just 4.9%, frustrating investors who had come to expect a faster pace of growth. Shares began rallying after the final earnings report came out, however, as the market was pleased by the company's projection of $1.28 to $1.32 in earnings for fiscal 2016.

Now what: Though much attention has fallen on the upstart fast casual brands, traditional fast-food chains were much stronger performers, and Sonic seems to be a beneficiary of that trend. We're only in the first days of 2016, but Sonic has already popped, delivering a strong first quarter earnings report. Earnings per share improved from $0.18 to $0.24 and same-store sales ticked up 5.3%.

Management touted the company's momentum for continuing to drive profits higher, and with a healthy expansion plan and a reasonable valuation, the stock should continue to push higher in 2016.

 

Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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