Taking stock: CBRL jumps on earnings

Also: LifePoint buyback ahead of schedule, analysts keep the faith in Healthcare Realty

Shares of CBRL Group jumped more than 10 percent today after the company topped analysts’ expectations and reiterated its 2008 outlook.

At about 2:15 p.m., the stock was changing hands at $38.15, up almost 11 percent on the day and back at levels last seen before Wall Street’s slump began late last year. Volume was already triple the stock’s average.

Analysts liked what they heard from the company in terms of cost containment and the outlook for sales. Morgan Keegan’s Robert Derrington told investors he expects the company to continue to outperform its casual-dining peers.

Other local restaurant stocks rode CBRL's coattails today: Both O'Charley's and J. Alexander's were up 3 percent this afternoon.

Notes from LifePoint's 10-K

LifePoint Hospitals officials expect to wrap up the $150 million share buyback they announced last November by the middle of this year, well before its Thanksgiving expiration.

In its recently filed annual report, the company said it bought back more than $41 million worth of stock in December at an average price of $30.35. Since then, LifePoint shares have fallen about 15 percent, so it’s likely the company has been buying even more aggressively. A call to CFO David Dill was not returned by publication time.

Also in its report, LifePoint said that an Americans with Disabilities Act class-action lawsuit against it was dismissed earlier this month. The suit, which was first filed seven years ago in East Tennessee by Access Now, a watchdog group, sought to force the company to comply with the ADA at each of its hospitals.

A year later, the court ordered LifePoint to work with Access Now on inspections of its facilities. The two sides and the court have since agreed on modifications to 13 hospitals, work LifePoint expects to cost up to $8 million.

But on Feb. 12, the case was dismissed because of a lack of individual plaintiffs. In its filing, LifePoint says Access Now still has time to refile the suit.

Healthcare Realty's outlook

Despite lower fourth-quarter profits, analysts say Healthcare Realty remains a solid story, citing the company's sharper focus on medical office buildings since it sold its senior-living assets.

On the company's conference call this morning, Senior Executive Vice President Doug Whitman told analysts that the company in the coming two years will complete 10 projects worth a combined 1 million square feet and $250 million. Separately, Whitman indicated Healthcare Realty is on the short list of potential buyers for an MOB portfolio worth more than $30 million.

Whether those projects will help the stock in the near term isn't clear: CFO Scott Holmes said the market's volatility will likely continue to hurt shares of healthcare REITs. Healthcare Realty stock is down more than 35 percent in the past year but has traded in a narrow range since Labor Day.