Wendy’s International Inc. is exploring a possible sale of the company, the nation’s third-largest hamburger chain said Monday, as it warned that profits for the year would fall short of Wall Street expectations.
“While a sale remains only one of the alternatives under consideration, we believe it merits more thorough examination,” James V. Pickett, Wendy’s chairman and head of special committee doing the study, said in a statement.
The company, under pressure from shareholders, formed a committee in April to determine how to boost its stock price, including a possible sale. JP Morgan, as lead adviser, and Lehman Brothers Inc., as co-adviser, will conduct a review in conjunction with the committee.
A sale would cap a whirlwind year for the company, which has spun off its Tim Hortons coffee-and-doughnut chain, dumped its money-losing Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and laid off employees at its corporate office.
The company said there is no assurance that a deal will be completed.
Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners, which owns a big chunk of Wendy’s stock, has pushed the company to make changes to boost its shares. Peltz captured three seats on the board in March 2006. His company Triarc Cos. controls fast-food chain Arby’s.
Wendy’s said it expects to make $1.09 to $1.23 per share for the year, primarily because of weaker-than-expected sales at stores open at least a year, considered a key indicator of a retailer’s strength, and higher-than-expected commodity costs.
The company withdrew its earnings forecasts for 2008 and 2009. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings of $1.27 per share this year and a $1.70 in 2008.
Wendy’s said same-store stores are up just 0.7 percent in the second quarter through Friday compared with 3.8 percent in the first quarter.
Kerrii Anderson, Wendy’s chief executive and president, said sales in the last two months have been hurt because Wendy’s had to raise prices.
“We believe our new market-based pricing approach is the right long-term strategy to generate more positive store operating margins, but it has pressured transactions in the short-term,” she said.
The revised earnings outlook for this year excludes expenses related to the work of the committee; as much as $60 million from changes to the company pension program; and also potential restructuring charges.
Wendy’s shares fell in trading Monday afternoon. Shares have been trading around $40 since it announced in April that a committee had been formed to study options for the company. Shares reached as high as $67.19 last year just before the Tim Hortons spinoff.
Wendy’s, based in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, operates about 6,600 restaurants in the United States and abroad. It trails McDonald’s Corp. and Burger King Holdings Inc. in the burger business.