El Pollo LoCo Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:LOCO) announced financial results for the 13-week period ended September 30, 2015.

Highlights for the third quarter ended September 30, 2015, compared to the third quarter ended September 24, 2014 were as follows:

  • Total revenue increased to $88.9 million compared to $86.6 million.
  • System-wide comparable restaurant sales grew 0.6%, including flat growth for company-operated restaurants, and a 1.1% increase for franchised restaurants.
  • Net income was $4.7 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, compared to net income of $25.8 million, or $0.70 per diluted share.
  • Pro forma net income(1) increased 43.7% to $7.2 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, compared to $5.0 million, or $0.13 per diluted share.
  • Adjusted EBITDA(1) increased 9.9% to $16.6 million.

(1) Pro forma net income and adjusted EBITDA are non-GAAP measures. A reconciliation of GAAP net income to each of these measures is included in the accompanying financial data. See also “Non-GAAP Financial Measures.”

Steve Sather, President and Chief Executive Officer of El Pollo Loco Holdings, Inc., stated, “Our third quarter results included our 17th consecutive quarter of system-wide comparable restaurant sales growth as well as pro forma net income growth of over 40%. We are taking actions to reengage our value conscious customers and have several current initiatives to enhance the overall experience of our customers. Through these actions, we will ensure that we deliver on the core elements of our QSR+ brand promise.”

Sather continued, “Our new restaurant pipeline is strong and growing stronger, and we continue to be excited about the long runway of growth that we believe is ahead of us in both new and existing markets. Customers love our food, and we look forward to bringing our delicious Fire-Grilled Chicken and authentic Mexican inspired entrees to consumers across the country.”

Third Quarter 2015 Financial Results

Company-operated restaurant revenue in the third quarter of 2015 increased 2.6% to $83.0 million, from $80.9 million in the same period last year. The growth in company-operated restaurant revenue was driven largely by 13 new units opened during and subsequent to the third quarter of 2014 offset by loss of sales from six units sold to a franchisee and one company-operated unit closed in fiscal year 2014.

Comparable company-operated restaurant sales in the third quarter were flat, driven by a 1.9% decrease in traffic, partially offset by a 1.9% increase in average check.

Franchise revenue in the third quarter of 2015 increased 3.3% to $5.9 million, from $5.7 million in the third quarter of 2014. Franchised comparable restaurant sales increased 1.1% during the quarter.

Restaurant contribution was $17.6 million, compared to $16.7 million in the third quarter of 2014. As a percent of company-operated restaurant revenue, restaurant contribution margin increased 50 basis points to 21.2%. The increase in restaurant contribution margin was primarily the result of lower occupancy and other operating expenses as well as lower food and paper costs, partially offset by increased labor and related expenses on higher worker’s compensation and medical insurance claims activity.

Net income for the third quarter of 2015 was $4.7 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, compared to net income of $25.8 million, or $0.70 per diluted share in the third quarter of 2014.

Pro forma net income increased 43.7% to $7.2 million, or $0.18 per diluted share during the third quarter of 2015, compared to $5.0 million, or $0.13 per diluted share during the third quarter of 2014. A reconciliation between GAAP net income and pro forma net income is included in the accompanying financial data.

2015 Outlook

Based upon current information, the Company is updating its guidance for fiscal year 2015.

The Company now expects 2015 pro forma diluted net income per share ranging from $0.67 to $0.69, from $0.67 to $0.71 previously. This compares to pro forma diluted net income per share of $0.55 in 2014. The Company’s 2014 pro forma results included an estimated $0.01 per share positive impact due to a 53rd week during the fiscal year.

Pro forma net income guidance for fiscal year 2015 is based, in part, on the following updated annual assumptions:

  • System-wide comparable restaurant sales growth of approximately 1.7% (previously approximately 3%);
  • The opening of 13-15 new company-owned restaurants and 5 new franchised restaurants (previously 16 new company-owned and 8 new franchised);
  • Restaurant contribution margin of 21.2% to 21.5%;
  • G&A expenses of between 7.8% and 8.0% of total revenue;
  • Pro forma income tax rate of 41.0%; and
  • Adjusted EBITDA of between $64.0 and $66.0 million (previously $65.0 million to $67.0 million).

The following definitions apply to these terms as used in this release:

Comparable restaurant sales reflect the change in year-over-year sales for the comparable company, franchised and total system restaurant base. The comparable restaurant base is defined to include those restaurants open for 15 months or longer.  At September 30, 2015, there were 160 restaurants in our comparable company-operated restaurant base and 397 restaurants in our comparable system restaurant base.

Restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are neither required by, nor presented in accordance with, GAAP. Restaurant contribution is defined as company-operated restaurant revenue less company restaurant expenses, which are food and paper costs, labor and related expenses and occupancy and other operating expenses. Restaurant contribution margin is defined as restaurant contribution as a percentage of net company-operated restaurant revenue. See also “Non-GAAP Financial Measures.”

EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA are neither required by, nor presented in accordance with, GAAP. EBITDA represents net income before interest expense, provision for income taxes, depreciation, and amortization, and adjusted EBITDA represents EBITDA before items that we do not consider representative of our ongoing operating performance, as identified in the GAAP reconciliation in the accompanying financial data. See also “Non-GAAP Financial Measures.”

Pro forma net income is neither required by, nor presented in accordance with, GAAP. Pro forma net income reflects (i) the net decrease in interest expense resulting from the repayment of our second lien term loan facility with the proceeds from our IPO, (ii) the elimination of fees payable under the management agreement between us and affiliates of our sponsors, less sponsor expenses that were replaced with board of director costs after our IPO, (iii) providing for an estimate of recurring incremental legal, accounting, insurance and other compliance costs we expect to incur as a public company for those periods where they had not yet been incurred, (iv) costs related to loss on disposal of assets and asset impairment and closed store costs, (v) amortization expense incurred on the Tax Receivable Agreement (“TRA”) completed at the time of the IPO, (vi) professional fees incurred as a result of the block trade of 5.4 million common shares in the second quarter of 2015 and (vii) provision for income taxes at a normalized tax rate of 41.0%, which reflects our estimated long-term effective tax rate, including both federal and state income taxes. See the GAAP reconciliation in the accompanying financial data and “Non-GAAP Financial Measures.”

Pro forma weighted-average share and per share data reflect the 8,214,286 additional shares of common stock issued in the IPO as if they had been issued on December 26, 2013. See also “Non-GAAP Financial Measures.”   (Original Source)

Shares of El Pollo LoCo Holdings are down 8% to 10.60 in after-hours trading. LOCO has a 1-year high of $35.80 and a 1-year low of $10.16. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $11.52 and its 200-day moving average is $17.24.

On the ratings front, El Pollo LoCo has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on October 7, Suntrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Jake Bartlett initiated coverage with a Buy rating on LOCO and a price target of $17, which implies an upside of 42.1% from current levels. Separately, on August 28, Stifel Nicolaus’ Paul Westra upgraded the stock to Buy and has a price target of $17.

According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jake Bartlett and Paul Westra have a total average return of 4.5% and 4.7% respectively. Bartlett has a success rate of 62.5% and is ranked #1893 out of 3840 analysts, while Westra has a success rate of 50.0% and is ranked #1299.

El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc operates limited service restaurant. The Company through its indirect subsidiary, El Pollo Loco, Inc. , which develops, franchises, licenses and operates quick-service restaurants under the name El Pollo Loco.