Olive Garden’s Darden Restaurants jump after beating Q4 Estimates and Dividend Hike

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Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) reported its fourth quarter financial results and reported better than expected results. Shares surged by 11 percent shortly after the opening bell on Thursday.

For the fourth quarter, Darden reported total sales of $2.13 billion, increasing 10.3 percent year over year and falling in line with analysts’ estimates. The company reported an EPS of $1.39, beating analysts’ estimates by 4 cents.

Darden’s portfolio includes various other restaurants, as blended same-restaurant sales from the company’s legacy brands increased by 2.2 percent overall. Olive Garden rose by 2.4 percent, LongHorn Steakhouse rose by 2.4 percent and The Capital Grille rose by 2.6 percent. Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen was the only weak performer, which reported a 4.7 percent decline in same store sales.

"Our solid fourth quarter results concluded another strong year of performance as we executed our back-to-basics operating philosophy and strengthened our competitive advantages," said CEO Gene Lee.  "Our strategy remains unchanged, and our operators' consistent focus on being brilliant with the basics has allowed us to continue building guest loyalty while taking market share."

Darden’s board of directors increased the quarterly dividend by 19 percent to 75 cents per common stock. The dividend is payable on August 1, 2018.

For 2019, the company forecasts same-restaurant sales growth of 1 percent to 2 percent, along with opening 45 to 50 new locations. Darden projects sales to grow by 4 percent to 5 percent on a diluted EPS between $5.40 and $5.56.

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