Restaurant Brands to withhold final dividend payment; sales rise

Restaurants Brands' 155 KFC outlets in New Zealand and Australia reported large sales boosts for the year. Pictured, KFC in Andersons Bay Rd, Dunedin. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Restaurants Brands' 155 KFC outlets in New Zealand and Australia reported large sales boosts for the year. Pictured, KFC in Andersons Bay Rd, Dunedin. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Restaurant Brands is withholding a final dividend payment as it embarks on the launch of up to 60 Taco Bell outlets in New Zealand and Australia, and eyes up acquisitions in the United States and Australia.

Almost half the company's revenue, for its year to February, came from offshore.

A partial takeover offer from Finaccess Capital was concluded on April 1 with the Mexican company taking a 75% stake, the $9.45 per share offer valuing Restaurant Brands at $1.18billion.

Total group sales rose by 7.2% to $794.0million, up 7.2%; the bulk of the $53.2million increase attributable to the full-year impact from Australian stores acquired during full year 2018.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) rose 5.4% to a record $129.2million and after-tax profit was up 0.8% to $35.7million.

Restaurant Brand shares dipped almost 4% to $8.74 following the announcement, but were up 28.6% on a year ago.

The company said there had been ''considerable investment'' of more than $33million across store refurbishment in three divisions, providing a ''solid base'' for future sales growth.

While store development and acquisition growth could be funded by increased borrowings, the company said it was the best interests to retain cash, by not paying a final dividend.

''As its growth strategy begins to accelerate, Restaurant Brands is facing substantial demands on its capital resources,'' the company said.

Forsyth Barr broker Suzanne Kinnaird said the result was slightly below expectations, having been driven by higher general and administration costs.

''As previously reported, group sales were up 7.2% with the core KFC brand performing particularly well,'' she said.

The core KFC and Taco Bell brands continued to track well and were close to expectations, or ahead at the store earnings before interest and tax line, with disappointments in terms of Ebitda being Pizza Hutt in New Zealand and Hawaii and Carl's Jr, she said.

She noted with no second-half dividend, there was no comment whether this was a permanent policy.

The company provided guidance of 10% profit growth for full year-2020, which was ''slightly below'' Forsyth Barr's forecast growth, Mrs Kinnaird said.

Over the next five years, Restaurant Brands plans to open 30 new KFC stores, 60 Taco Bell stores and refurbish 50-60 KFC stores across Australasia, build and rebuild 10-12 Taco Bells in Hawaii, buy 10-40 KFC stores in Australia, and pursue two or three KFC or Taco Bell acquisitions on the US mainland, BusinessDesk reported.

While the bulk of Restaurant Brands shareholders will have pocketed $9.45 a share in the scaled takeover bid, yesterday's decision by the board means investors won't receive any dividends this year after directors put off paying an interim dividend due to Finaccess Capital's offer.

It paid 28c per share for the 2018 financial year and, while chair Ted van Arkel told shareholders at last year's annual meeting that the board will lift dividends in line with higher earnings, those returns will always be subject to capital spending plans.

The Mexican firm would prefer to use equity funding as a last resort for that capital programme.

Restaurant Brands spent $36.9million buying intangibles, property, plant and equipment in the year, and raised $10.2million from the sale of assets.

- Additional reporting by BusinessDesk

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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