? Solid same-store sales performance;
? Operating leverage, which produced an improvement in overall margins.
Net income increased 17% in the fourth quarter to $10.8 million versus $9.3 million last year and was up 23% to $0.59 per diluted share from $0.48 per diluted share in the year-earlier period. Sonic's revenues for the fourth quarter totaled $81.5 million compared with $74.0 million in the year-earlier period.
For the year ended August 31, 2000, Sonic's net income rose 19% to $32.6 million from $27.4 million in fiscal 1999, while income per diluted share increased 24% to $1.75 compared with $1.41 last year. Total revenues for fiscal 2000 were $280.1 million versus $257.6 million last year.
"We are very pleased with Sonic's progress over the past year, from top and bottom line growth to new highs in return on equity,'' said Clifford Hudson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "We are also gratified by the brand loyalty our customers have shown for Sonic, providing us with our 14th consecutive year of same-store sales expansion and the highest repeat visit rate in the industry. These characteristics speak as much to Sonic's promising future as they do to the company's successful past."
Hudson noted that several factors continue to drive Sonic's sales performance. Chief among these has been strong media support of the Sonic brand message. Media expenditures rose 28% in fiscal 2000 to $68 million, helping foster an increased level of brand awareness. Together with strong promotions, a focus on new product news and initiatives designed to build under-leveraged dayparts, this increased media spending helped drive same-store sales during the quarter 3.6% at company-owned stores and 2.8% system-wide. For the full year, Sonic's same-store sales increased 2.4% for company-owned drive-ins and 3.0% system-wide.
Management expects same-store sales to increase by 2% to 4% during fiscal 2001. Year-to-date sales have performed in that range.
Sonic ended fiscal 2000 with 2,175 drive-ins, including 1,863 franchised units. During the fourth quarter, 62 new drive-ins were opened, of which 55 were franchised. For the year, 174 restaurants were opened, including 150 franchised drive-ins. With a strong development pipeline in place for company-owned and franchised locations, the company currently anticipates that 190 to 200 drive-ins will be opened during the coming fiscal year.
"The drivers for solid performance are in place and will continue to have a growing impact on the company,'' Hudson continued. "This should lead to earnings growth in the 20% range and improving return on equity during fiscal year 2001."