Benihana Shares Jump on Stronger-Than-Expected Sales

Shares of Benihana soared Monday after the chain famous for its Japanese steakhouses and sushi restaurants said fourth quarter profits rose 4 percent on a big boost in restaurant sales.

Shares jumped $1.95, or 9.3 percent, to $22.97 in morning trading. The shares also hit a yearly high of $25.11 earlier in the day. They have traded between $14.02 and $22.54 during the past 52 weeks.

For the quarter ended April 1, net income grew to $3.8 million, or 35 cents per share, from $3.7 million, or 35 cents per share in the prior year quarter. The company had about 3 percent more shares outstanding in the 2007 fourth quarter.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected net income of 31 cents per share on revenue of $72.3 million.

Revenue missed analysts' predictions but still rose 17 percent to $71.6 million from $61.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2006. All of the increase came from a 17 percent rise in restaurant sales. Franchise fees and royalties - a much smaller portion of the company's revenues - fell 8 percent during the quarter.

Same-store sales, or sales at restaurants open at least a year, rose 5.7 percent. Same-store sales is a key measure of restaurant performance since it counts growth at existing units rather than newly-opened ones.

For the year, profit rose 2 percent to $13.4 million, or $1.26 per share, from $13.1 million, or $1.36 per share. In 2006, there were fewer shares outstanding.

Revenue grew 11 percent to $272.7 million from $245.6 million in 2006.

Benihana also said its restaurant sales - not including royalties and fees from franchises - would rise to between $300 million and $305 million during fiscal year 2008.

Benihana operates 79 restaurants nationwide, including 59 of its namesake teppanyaki restaurants, seven Haru sushi restaurants and 13 RA Sushi Bar restaurants.