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Nov 8 (Reuters) - Wendy's Co reported lower-than-expected quarterly profit and sales as increased competition, lower grocery prices and hurricanes hit traffic at restaurants, leading the burger chain to cut its full-year adjusted earnings per share forecast.
The company's shares fell 4.5 percent to $14.05 in early trading on Wednesday.
U.S. restaurants have been dealing with a slide in grocery prices that is encouraging more consumers to prepare meals at home or use meal-kit delivery services such as Blue Apron , HelloFresh and Plated.
This has intensified competition among burger chains, with Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King offering deeply discounted meals to get more customers to visit their outlets.
Traffic in August and September fell nearly 2.4 percent across the restaurant industry, Jefferies analysts said, compounded by the impact of hurricanes Irma and Harvey in the U.S. southeast.
Even after excluding the hurricanes, trends in the U.S. restaurants sector remain at "very soft levels", the analysts added.
Wendy's same-restaurant sales in North America rose 2 percent in the third quarter, lower than the 2.4 percent increase, analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected.
The burger chain, which has the highest concentration of stores in Florida and Texas among U.S. states, blamed hurricanes Irma and Harvey denting same-store sales in North America by 30 to 40 basis points.
The company also trimmed the higher end of its North American comparable-store sales forecast for the year to 2 percent to 2.5 percent from its previous range of 2 percent to 3 percent.
To counter fluctuating commodity and labor cost pressures, Wendy's has been on a multi-year push to reduce the number of company-owned restaurants by selling them to franchises.
The company said it sold 249 restaurants to franchisees in the quarter, resulting in a 15.4 percent drop in sales to $308 million. Analysts had expected $311.9 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Excluding some items, the company earned 9 cents per share, missing analysts' average estimate of 12 cents per share.
The Dublin, Ohio-based company also cut its adjusted profit forecast to 43 cents to 45 cents per share for full-year, from 45-47 cents it estimated earlier. (Reporting by Uday Sampath Kumar and Karina Dsouza in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)