Earnings wrap: Cracker Barrel, AmSurg

Restaurant chain blows away Street, sees shares pop 10%+

Shares of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store surged more than 10 percent to record highs after the restaurant and retail chain reported quarterly profits that easily beat analysts' projections.

Lebanon-based Cracker Barrel said its bottom line for its second fiscal quarter came in at $35.2 million, or $1.47 per share, versus $25.6 million a year ago. Analysts had been looking for profits of $1.25 per share. Revenues for the quarter rose 4 percent to $703 million as traffic ticked up 0.2 percent from a year before. Helping drive profitability were price hikes of about 3 percent and a 7 percent drop in general and administrative expenses, primarily via compensation savings driven through new scheduling software.

“This is the first quarter in more than ten years with positive comparable store traffic against a prior-year quarter with positive comparable store traffic,” said President and CEO Sandy Cochran. “This quarter’s financial results exceeded our expectations and reflect the continued success of our marketing, menu, and operational initiatives. While we remain confident of our ability to execute our strategic plan, we also remain cautious about general economic conditions and consumer spending.”

Investors weren't anywhere near as cautious in bidding up Cracker Barrel shares Tuesday morning. At about 11 a.m., the stock (Ticker: CBRL) was up 11.6 percent to about $74.80. The shares' previous record high had been just above $68.

Heading in the opposite direction Tuesday morning were shares of AmSurg, which late Monday said it had earned $16.8 million last quarter. Per diluted share, its profits from continuing operations came in at 49 cents, two cents below analysts' consensus estimate.

Total revenues for the quarter at the Nashville-based company climbed about 10 percent to $244 million. Same-center revenues rose 3 percent. AmSurg President and CEO Chris Holden said his team's numbers includes a loss of about 1 cent per diluted share due to Hurricane Sandy but that the company is on track with its M&A push.

"Our acquisition strategy contributed significantly to our 19% growth in revenue and earnings per diluted share for full-year 2012 and, through a record level of activity in the fourth quarter, will continue to fuel our growth in 2013," Holden said. "We completed the acquisition of 14 centers during the fourth quarter that generate a record $60 million in annualized operating income, all of which were single-center transactions."

Investors, however, pushed down shares of AmSurg (Ticker: AMSG) more than 3.5 percent in morning trading. At about $30.10, they are now back in the red for the year.