Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Frisch's profits increase 50%

Same-store sales climb again

By Randy Tucker and Amy Higgins
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Frisch's Restaurants Inc. said Monday that profits rose more than 50 percent in the fourth quarter, sending shares of the Cincinnati-based restaurant chain soaring to their biggest one-day gain since May 2002.

Frisch's shares climbed as high as $22.44 in early trading on the American Stock Exchange before settling at $21.90 - up $2.85.

For the 12-week period that ended June 1, Frisch's reported net income of $3.1 million, or 61 cents a share, compared with $2 million, or 40 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales were up 12 percent to $58.1 million for the same period.

Frisch's attributed the quarterly earnings spike to the performance of its flagship Big Boy restaurants, which saw same-store sales - or sales at stores open at least a year - climb 4.3 percent in the fourth quarter and 2.2 percent for the full year.

"We have now had six consecutive years of same-store sales increases in our Big Boy restaurants,'' Craig Maier, Frisch's president and CEO, said. "We have also had quarterly same-store sales increases in 22 out of the last 23 quarters.''

The company also reported a strong performance for its Golden Corral restaurant chain and said Monday that it plans to open three more by the end of the summer.

For the full year, Frisch's earnings rose 23 percent to $9.8 million, or $1.95 per share, from $8 million, or $1.59 per share, in 2002.

Sales were up 11 percent to $235 million for the year.

In other earnings news:

E.W. Scripps' profits double

Bolstered by exceptionally strong results from Home & Garden Television and the Food Network, profits more than doubled at Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. during its second quarter.

The parent of the Cincinnati Post on Monday reported net income for the three months ended June 30 was $64.7 million, compared with $27 million for last year's second quarter. Earnings per share were 80 cents, compared with 33 cents a year ago.

But analysts had expected Scripps to earn 82.5 cents a share. That disappointment - along with a warning from Scripps that it will earn 55 to 65 cents a share, instead of the 68 cents forecasted by analysts - led Scripps stock to fall $3.99, or 4.5 percent, by the closing bell.

Still weak at Scripps is its newspaper division, which saw revenues rise 1.5 percent to $135.9 million in the second quarter. But help-wanted ads declined 15 percent, and profit at the unit slipped 4.4 percent to $67.5 million because of higher costs.

Scripps' bright spot continues to be its cable-television division, Scripps Networks, which includes HGTV, Food Network and Fine Living. The fastest-growing business unit saw profits up 70 percent to $55.9 million, on a gain in revenue of 28 percent to $142 million.

"It was a one-note symphony because broadcast and newspapers were down and all the growth came out of the networks," said Edward Atorino, an analyst at Blaylock & Partners LP, who has a "hold" rating on the shares. "It hasn't been a good year for newspapers so far."


E-mail rtucker@enquirer.com and ahiggins@enquirer.com

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